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Advent – an introduction

30 November, 1999

Advent means ‘coming’. “The advent of the motor car”, means when cars first came to the streets. During advent we look forward to the coming of Jesus. At the end of Advent, on Christmas Day, we celebrate the feast of the coming of Jesus – the birth of the baby in the stable in Bethlehem.

Over the next 25 days we shall be preparing for Christmas by looking each day at some different aspect of life at the time of Jesus. If you visit this site every day, then by the time Christmas comes we hope you will have a better understanding of the place Jesus was born and the history of his people. Many words which you might hear in the Christmas story are strange or unusual, like Messiah or swaddling clothes or saviour, we shall explain what they mean.

Each year the period of advent is counted back from Christmas Day to include 4 Sundays. So depending upon what day of the week the 25th of December falls advent is longer or shorter. This year as Christmas Day falls on Wednesday, four Sundays before it goes back to Sunday 1st of December, and so advent is exactly all the days of December up to Christmas.

The period leading up to Christmas includes the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, known as the mid-winter solstice. Before the coming of Christianity most people celebrated this period of the year with a festival. These ‘pagan’ religions celebrated the re-birth of the land, the fact that the days had stopped getting shorter and that spring and new life could now be looked forward to. The Christmas celebration replaced these older celebrations. Early Christian missionaries ‘christianised’ these pagan feasts celebrating the new life in the child Jesus.

Working it out
1. What is the longest and shortest time that Advent can be? Remember that there always needs to be four Sundays, not counting Christmas Day.

2. Read the story of the birth of Jesus and make a note of anything or any word that you don’t understand. Make a list too of questions you might have about the story. Keep them until Christmas and then see if you understand then. See Luke 2:1-20

3. Check out ‘christian season advent’ in Google, what interesting facts can you find out about the season?

4. What can you find out about mid-winter celebrations in your country before the coming of Christianity?

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