Traditionally, the season of Advent has been a time of penitence in preparation to celebrate the Feast of the Nativity. This is why the church color for the season is purple even though it clashes with the red and green we typically associate with Christmas. Purple signifies the season of repentance. The Feast of the Nativity on December 25 marked the beginning of Feasting and celebrating. The Feast went on for the 12 days between December 25 and the Epiphany on January 6.
Through the years the traditions have been altered in different ways by our culture. In the Greek Orthodox Church, for example, the period of fasting in preparation for the Feast of the Nativity begins in November yet they do not wear purple at all during Christmas because they consider their fast as preparation not penitence as in Lent. It is a hard to keep a fast in America anyway when our celebration of Thanksgiving is totally focused on food. Different churches made alterations on these traditions to help the people keep the focus on what is most important—the birth of Christ. The season of advent is not a biblical mandate; rather it is a tool suggested by holy leaders in their efforts to help us to love and serve God more fully as disciples of Christ.
For this reason you will not find hard and fast rules about the season. I think it is more relevant to explore and set out to focus on this season in the way that most benefits your soul. We began celebrating Advent when Rachel was first beginning to respond to Christmas. Brian and I were saddened by the reality we saw in her childish heart that everything was about gifts and Santa Claus. For this reason, we looked for ways to help her think more about Jesus. We may have gone too far because by the time Ben was three, he did not even know the name of Santa Claus. That Christmas we have video of him saying, “Look, there’s that Christmas man. ”
Overall, I think we reached a balance between celebrating the amazing spiritual significance of Christmas along with enjoying the secular celebrations that we all enjoy. The main way we focus on the spiritual significance is through placing an Advent Wreath on the center of our kitchen table. We have wonderful memories of each child participating in the Advent Wreath—when they were very small by blowing out the candles, then lighting them as they grew older, and when they could read, sharing in the devotions we enjoyed together.
The various church traditions regarding Advent offer many ways to celebrate the joy of the season. They help us not just wait on Santa Claus but to wait in joyful expectation of celebrating the reality that the Son of God came to earth to be with us. Moreover, because of His death, burial, and resurrection, He will ever remain with us through faith.
Jesus told the Parable in Matthew 25 of the virgins keeping their lamps lit for the coming of the bridegroom:
At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.
During the Season of Advent, church traditions offer you an opportunity to allow your mind, body and soul to experience the truths of God’s Word. I hope you will participate in celebrating the spiritual significance of the season in a special way. I have prepared a Advent Devotion that you can use each day of Advent through Epiphany. The link is below to this week’s Tea Time. Please DO NOT publish without written permission, it is prepared for your personal use only.
Tea Time for Your Soul Advent Guide 2012