Four Sunday’s of Advent

Four Sunday’s of Advent

Sunday, December 3 is the first Sunday of Advent in Western Christian Churches. Now, you ask what is Advent Sunday? Why, should I care?

The meaning of Advent Sunday marks the beginning of the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. This is a Latin word meaning “coming.”

What can one expect during the Advent season. Well I am glad you ask. What does Advent mean and why is it celebrated. Advent is celebrated by a time of “expectant waiting and preparation for the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.” The Latin meaning on the word Advent means “coming.”

There are four Sundays of Advent  and the first Sunday is a time to remember the History of Advent and “is marked by a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, of longing. There is a yearning for deliverance from the evils of the world, first expressed by Israelite slaves in Egypt as they cried out from their bitter oppression. It is the cry of those who have experienced the tyranny of injustice in a world under the curse of sin, and yet who have hope of deliverance by a God who has heard the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance!”(The Voice)

The Second Sunday of Adventsymbolizes the present situation of the church in these “last days (Acts 2:17Hebrews 1:2), as God’s people wait for the return of Christ in glory to consummate his eternal kingdom. The church is in a similar situation to Israel at the end of the Old Testament: in exile, waiting and hoping in prayerful expectation for the coming of the Messiah. Israel looked back to God’s past gracious actions on their behalf in leading them out of Egypt in the Exodus, and on this basis they called for God once again to act for them. In the same way, the church, during Advent, looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people. In this light, the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” perfectly represents the church’s cry during the Advent season:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

While Israel would have sung the song in expectation of Christ’s first coming, the church now sings the song in commemoration of that first coming and in expectation of the second coming in the future.”

The Third Sunday of Advent is one of Liturgy and Practice

To balance the two elements of remembrance and anticipation, the first two Sundays in Advent (through December 16th) look forward to Christ’s second coming, and the last two Sundays (December 17th – 24th) look backward to remember Christ’s first coming. Over the course of the four weeks, Scripture readings move from passages about Christ’s return in judgment, to Old Testament passages about the expectation of the coming Messiah, to New Testament passages about the announcements of Christ’s arrival by John the Baptist and the Angels.

While it is difficult to keep in mind in the midst of holiday celebrations, shopping, lights and decorations, and joyful carols, Advent is intended to be a season of fasting, much like Lent, and there are a variety of ways that this time of mourning works itself out in the season. Reflection on the violence and evil in the world cause us to cry out to God to make things right—to put death’s dark shadows to flight. Our exile in the present makes us look forward to our future Exodus. And our own sinfulness and need for grace leads us to pray for the Holy Spirit to renew his work in conforming us into the image of Christ.

One catechism describes Advent spirituality beautifully: “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’”(Christianity Today)r

The Fourth Sunday of Advent is “annunciation of Christ’s birth

I think that this is the most important of the advent Sunday’s. This Sunday is the fulfillment of what Christmas is all about. It is the culmination of prophecies foretold by the prophets. In Luke 1:26-38 we read about how the Angel Gabriel spoke with Mary about what was going to happen to her and through her. How she will be the one to carry the child that is going to set men free from their sins. She will delivery the long awaited Messiah.

In Matthew 1:21-23 it says “And she will bring forth Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying; Behold the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which translated, “God with us.”

There you have it. Celebrate each Sunday with anticipation of this wonderful news that Christ came to earth as a baby just like us. But he came with a purpose to set the world free from their sins.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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