Advent marks the start of the Christian year. It is the four weeks before Christmas, beginning on November 30 or the nearest Sunday to it. The word Advent comes from the Latin 'adventus' which means 'arrival' or 'coming'. This is the time for Christians to prepare for celebration of the birth of Jesus and look forward to the time that Jesus will come again.
During Advent no flowers decorate churches, but it is usual to have an Advent Crown also known as an Advent Wreath. These are made from a circle of evergreen plants (like holly and ivy) which symbolises that God - like a circle - has no beginning or end. The evergreen is a reminder that God does not change. The holly is also a symbol of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore when he was crucified. Four candles are fixed round the circle with another in the middle.
One purple candle is lit on the first Sunday of Advent. On the second Sunday it is lit again a second purple candle is also lit. On the third Sunday a pink candle is lit, while the fourth Sunday see the lighting of a third purple candle. On Christmas Day the white candle is also lit representing Jesus Christ as the light of the world. Many Christians celebrate Advent not only by thanking God for Christ's first coming to Earth as a baby, but also for his presence among us today through the Holy Spirit, and in preparation and anticipation of his final coming at the end of time.
Advent is a great time to renew our prayer life, or even to start praying on a daily basis. As we prepare for Christmas challenge yourself to enquire more about God, to learn more about Jesus and to fully open your heart to be ready for God to come amongst us.