Advent Dates for 2012
• December 2 - First Sunday of Advent
• December 9 - Second Sunday of Advent
• December 16 - Third Sunday of Advent
• December 23 - Fourth Sunday of Advent
In Western Christianity, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas Day, or the Sunday which falls closest to November 30, and lasts through Christmas Eve, or December 24. When Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday, it is the last, or fourth Sunday of Advent.
Advent is a season in the Christian year that lasts for about four weeks. It begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve, thus there is some variation in its length.
In our secular American celebration of Christmas, the Christmas season (or holiday season,) begins in the weeks prior to Christmas Day. Generally, this season starts in early December, though retailers have a bad habit of beginning Christmas in November (or even October). A good rule of thumb…, you shouldn’t listen to Christmas music or turn on Christmas lights until after you’ve finished the Thanksgiving turkey . . . at the earliest. Of course, nobody follows the rules . . . especially retailers.
So Advent overlaps with what is usually thought of in American culture as the Christmas season. But its beginning and ending are well defined, and its themes are quite a bit different from what is commonly associated with secular Christmas celebrations.
The Christian season of Christmas actually begins on Christmas Eve and lasts for twelve days, ending on January 6. (No, the twelve-day season of Christmas did not start with the song. It was the other way around.) The time before Christmas is Advent, a season of preparation for Christmas. Christians prepare for celebrating the birth of Jesus by remembering the longing of the Jews for a Messiah. In Advent, we’re reminded of how much we ourselves also need a Savior, and we look forward to our Savior’s second coming even as we prepare to celebrate his first coming at Christmas. The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming” or “visit.” In the season with this name, we keep in mind both “advents” of Christ, the first in Bethlehem and the second yet to come.
If you’re unfamiliar with Advent, I expect it might feel odd to think of the weeks before Christmas as something more than Christmastime. For some...use Advent calendars:, decorative paper displays with 25 little “windows,” one of which you would open each day of December leading up to Christmas. Sometimes Advent calendars are made of wood and feature twenty-five little boxes, each containing some little treasure (see photo). An Advent calendar is a way to whet your appetite for Christmas.
There are a few other things about Advent, besides its themes, that you might find odd if you’re unfamiliar with the season. The strangest might be the Advent color scheme. We associate Christmas and the weeks leading up to it with typical Christmas colors: red, green, white, silver, and gold. Advent, on the other hand, features purple (or dark blue) and pink. The purple/blue color signifies seriousness, repentance, and royalty. Pink points to the minor theme of Advent, which is joy. For many observers of Advent, the first, second, and fourth Sundays of Advent are “purple/blue” Sundays. Only the third is a “pink” Sunday. The pink, joyful color reminds us that, even as Advent helps us get in touch with our sober yearning for God to come to us, we know that he did in fact come in the person of Jesus.
Thus, our major-theme of waiting has a grace note of joy mixed in. If you’ve seen a traditionally-colored Advent wreath will recognize the purple and pink colors of this season (with the central, white, Christ-candle for Christmas Eve/Day). But if you’re unfamiliar with Advent and happen to attend a church service in early December in a church that recognizes Advent, you might be startled to see lots of purple, a bit of pink, and no red or green. (Many churches combine the colors of Advent and Christmas, however, so visitors won’t be completely perplexed. Advent purists don’t approve of such a mix, but we need to be gracious in our response to the Advent traditions of others. )