The Season of Advent: Waiting in Hope

By Monique Sammut | December 1, 2017
Waiting in Silence

Advent is a liturgical season consisting of four Sundays leading up to Christmas and ending on Christmas Eve.  It is an Old English word coming from the Latin adventus (arrival) or advenire (to come).  It is a special time dedicated to the remembrance of Jesus’ coming as a baby over 2,000 years ago.  The people in the Old Testament waited a long time for the coming of Jesus.  During Advent, we join those people in our own waiting as we anticipate the second coming of Jesus at the end of time.

Henri Nouwen wisely stated, “Waiting is a period of learning.  The longer we wait, the more we hear about him for whom we are waiting.”  Advent is a time of waiting – when we learn more about Jesus who came to set us free from slavery to sin.

The History of Advent

The origins of Advent originally had very little or no connection with Christmas.  During the fourth and fifth centuries, it was a time when new converts, through prayer, fasting, and penance, prepared for baptism on the feast of the Epiphany.  During the sixth century, Advent became a time to reflect on the second coming of Christ.  This season finally became connected to Christmas only after the Middle Ages.

Pope Saint Gelasius I provided the first Advent liturgies and gave the season five Sundays.  Pope Saint Gregory I wrote prayers, antiphons, readings, and responses for the liturgies and Pope Saint Gregory VII brought the number of Sundays down to four.  Around the ninth century, the Church declared the first Sunday of Advent as the official beginning of the liturgical year.

A Penitential Season

The holy season of Advent is definitely a time of hope, expectation, and joy.  However, in the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations the seriousness of the season is often lost.  Advent is supposed to be very similar to Lent.  In fact, sometimes it is even called a “mini Lent.”  Advent should definitely be a time of joy and hope, but also one of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, in preparation for the great feast of Christmas.  The Gloria is omitted during Advent and Lenten Masses.  However, the Alleluia, which is omitted during Lent, is still said during Advent.

Praise the Lord

There is a great temptation to listen to Christmas music during Advent, which is not bad.  However, there are many beautiful Advent songs that are easily forgotten in light of more popular and more well known Christmas songs.  Here are just a few: O Come Divine Messiah; O Come, O Come Emmanuel; The Angel Gabriel; Come Thou Long Expected Jesus; and of course, many more!

Advent Traditions

Countless traditions exist to enhance the celebration of Advent.  Many families use Advent wreaths, calendars, or a Jesse Tree throughout the season. We are especially excited to begin our tradition with our new magnetic Jesse Tree Set!

There is a beautiful tradition of praying the Christmas Anticipation Prayer (The Saint Andrew Christmas Novena).  It is traditionally prayed fifteen times a day beginning on the feast of Saint Andrew (November 30) and ending on Christmas Eve:

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold.  In that hour, vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires [here mention your request], through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ and of His Blessed Mother.  Amen.

We Are Innkeepers

Jesus’ coming was not just one distinct moment in the past.  Neal A. Maxwell beautifully stated, “Each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus!”  Jesus came in the past as a baby and He will come again in the future at the second coming.  However, each and every day He comes to us in Holy Communion and through His grace.

We must be mindful not to let material preparations hinder us from spiritually preparing for the holy season of Christmas.  As we clean our houses we should also clean our souls.  As we buy presents we should count our blessings and offer up sacrifices as little gifts to God.  The season of Advent is a special time when we can focus especially on making things right.  We must prepare a home in our hearts that is fit for the King of Kings so that we may be ready when He comes.

“O Come Divine Messiah, the world in silence waits the day, when hope shall sing its triumph and sadness flee away.”