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Lutheran Church Missouri Synod

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What is the Season of Advent?

Advent, from the Latin adventus ("coming"), marks the beginning of the Church year (the Christian calendar), comprising the four weeks before Christmas. In recent years, Advent has been viewed as forming the first part of the three-part season of Christmas: (1) Advent; (2) Christmas; (3) Epiphany.

The season of Advent appears to have originated in Gaul (modern day France), in the second half of the Fourth Century A.D. At this time it was a three week fast before Christmas. We do not find the first mention of Advent in Rome, however, until the late Sixth Century.

From the beginning, Advent has been a season of preparation for Christ's coming. When Advent observances first began, Christians living in the West (the western part of the Roman Empire) emphasized preparation for the Second Coming of Christ. Christians in the East stressed preparation for the celebration of Christ's birth. Today, our Scripture readings focus on three comings of Christ in reversed chronological order: (1) His Second Coming at the end of time; (2) His Messianic Coming, as announced by John the Baptist, to begin His official work as Messiah; (3) His First Coming in Bethlehem, as our newborn King. Featured in each of these three comings is a very important fourth coming, of course, the coming of Christ to each believer. If Christ hasn't come to you through baptism and faith, none of His other comings will benefit you!

For many centuries Advent's overall tone was one of sorrow for sin and penance. But in keeping with the tone of the Scripture readings for the season, in our day the tone of Advent is one of anticipation and hope, as well as one of repentance.

Advent is a marvelous opportunity for spiritual growth. Lutheran congregations offer mid-week Advent Services which, through their hymns, readings, and sermons, highlight the main Scriptural teachings of the season. Many congregations (including ours) provide devotional booklets with Scripture readings and meditations for each day in Advent. Additional customs, such as the Advent wreath, also add to the richness of this season.

Sources: Crim, Keith, gen. ed. Abingdon Dictionary of Living Religions. Nashville: Abingdon, 1981. Lueker, Erwin L., ed., Lutheran Cyclopedia, 2nd ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1975. Maxwell, Lee A. The Altar Guild Manual. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1996. Precht, Fred L., ed. Lutheran Worship: History and Practice. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1993. Wegman, Herman A. J. Christian Worship in East and West. Translated by Gordon W. Lathrop. New York: Pueblo Publishing Company, 1985.