Advent officially begins on Sunday and always begins on the Sunday nearest Nov. 30, and ends on Christmas Eve.
If Christmas Eve is a Sunday, it is counted as the fourth Sunday of Advent.
The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
“Each year the four weeks of Advent calls the community of faith to prepare for these comings; historically, the season was marked by fasts for repentant preparation similar to the season of Lent in preparation for Easter,” said the Rev. Beth Sanders, of Rome’s Second Avenue United Methodist Church.
The beginning of Advent is a time for the hanging of the greens, decoration of the church with evergreen wreaths, boughs, or trees that help to symbolize the new and everlasting life brought through Jesus.
The Advent wreath is a popular symbol of the beginning of the Church year. It is a circular evergreen wreath (real or artificial) with five candles, four around the wreath and one in the center.
“December 21 is the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, the longest night of the year,” Sanders wrote. “Yet the Gospel of John speaks of Christ as the true light coming into the world. In commemoration of that coming, we light candles on the Advent wreath for the four weeks leading to Christmas.”
According to Sanders, the three purple candles symbolize the coming of Christ from the royal line of David. The pink candle for the third Sunday of Advent symbolizes joy.
The Advent season is not complete until all four candles are lighted, with the central, pure white Christ candle also burning brightly on Christmas Eve.”