Happy new year! This Sunday, December 3, we begin a new church year. It's the first Sunday of the new year, the first Sunday with a new gospel companion (Mark), and the first Sunday of the season of Advent--a season of anticipation, expectation, preparation, and hope.
Advent comprises the four Sundays before Christmas. This year we have the shortest possible Advent because the fourth Sunday of Advent is December 24. We will celebrate Advent 4 with one service at 10 AM on December 24. Then the season will change from Advent to Christmas, and we'll celebrate Christmas with Christmas Eve candlelight Eucharists at 5:30 PM and 11 PM (music beginning at 10:30 PM).
The first Sunday of Advent always brings a text with an emphatic reminder to wake up or to keep awake. The second and third Sundays of Advent always bring us gospel texts about John the Baptizer, cousin and forerunner of Jesus. And the fourth Sunday of Advent lays out the message of the year’s path ahead from the point of view of either Mary or Joseph. This year we will focus on Mary.
The very deep blue of the Advent candles and the orphreys (ornamental stripes on vestments) recalls midnight and Mary. It's known as Sarum blue because of its ancient use going back to Salisbury Cathedral in England. The ancient Latin name for Salisbury is Sarum.
The Sarum blue is somber; the brighter blue of our vestments and some of our decorations conveys hope and expectation. The juxtaposition of these blues together is both beautiful and symbolically rich.
Advent comes from Latin and signifies an arrival. We understand it to mean the coming of Christ as a baby in Bethlehem, Christ's coming at the culmination of history, and all the comings of Christ happening in every Eucharist and often in the guise of the strangers who cross our paths.
May your Advent be blessed with good health and good cheer as together we make ready again and always for the grace and good news that God is giving to the world.