This is the equivalent of the “geography and statistics” chart you see at the front of every guide book or old encyclopedia entry. If you are new to observing the season of Advent, or maybe don’t know anything about it, this is a good starting point.
Advent definition: Means “coming”
The point of Advent: It is a time of anticipation, longing and hope as we remember Jesus coming as a baby (The Incarnation) and anticipate Jesus returning again as our King (the Second Coming of Christ).
Timing: It is the first liturgical season of the Church Year lasting for four weeks. It starts the last Sunday of November and finishes with Christmas.
What is the Church Year? It is the liturgical cycle of the church that walks through the life of Jesus and is marked by “seasons.” They include:
Advent length: 4 weeks
Christmas: 12 days
Epiphany: January 6th; also can be marked as the season between Christmas and Lent
Lent: 6 weeks
Easter: 6 weeks
Ordinary Time: The rest of the year with some other Holy Days thrown in
Colors associated with Advent: Purple and sometimes blue
Symbols for Advent: Advent wreaths are often used as a countdown to Christmas, but they are different than Advent calendars (like the chocolate kind with a door for each day of December). Advent wreaths hold four candles along the wreath and sometimes one candle in the middle. The candles represent each Sunday of Advent and stand for something different: Hope, peace, love, and joy. Usually, hope, peace and joy are purple candles and love is pink. Sometimes there is a center candle that is white, known as the Christ Candle and lit at Christmas.
Is Advent Biblical? The Bible does not designate a time for Advent. It also does not designate a time for the celebration of Christmas. The Bible, especially the Old Testament, does lay out a very specific year for the Israelites. There were seasons marked by holy days and were expected to be observed each year as a way to remember the Lord’s work and rely on Him in the present. We see the Apostles and Jewish converts marking the time in the same way after the Resurrection of Jesus. There is, I believe, a strong precedent for marking time with seasons and days to remember and celebrate God’s redemptive work.
What if I’m totally new to this? Jump in! Don’t feel pressure to do everything you read about. Start with one chapter of Lively Hope a week and get the feel of it. Build family traditions little by little each year.