The season of Advent marks the beginning of the church year, and includes the four Sundays before Christmas. The Latin root for Advent means “coming.”  Christians use this season as a time to proclaim and reflect on the comings of Christ. These “comings” include the birth of Jesus Christ as the infant son of Mary and Joseph of Nazareth more than 2000 years ago, and Christ’s second coming in final victory to redeem the faithful and bring about God’s kingdom on earth.

At Panora UMC we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent with a Hanging of the Greens, in which the worship space is decorated with the Christian symbols of Christmas. These include the blue (or purple) altar coverings and banners, the Advent wreath, the evergreens, the poinsettias, and the Christmas tree decorated with white and gold Chrismons, special ornaments made using symbols of the person, life and ministry of Jesus.

Advent is a season of waiting. Each Sunday during Advent a new candle is lit on the Advent wreath to help us mark the time as we wait to celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas. Advent is also a season of giving.  Members are encouraged to bring in non perishable food for the area food pantries, children’s mittens and gloves to be distributed by our 3Cs Children’s Clothing Closet, and purchase and wrap gifts for area families in need.

We typically conclude our celebration of Advent with a special worship service on Christmas Eve that features a service of lessons and carols. The story of Jesus’ birth is retold, including the prophecy of his coming, the angel’s visit with Mary, his birth in Bethlehem, the proclamation of his birth to the shepherds, the visit by the Magi, and mystery of God dwelling with us. This service ends with the passing of the light of Christ from person to person during the singing of “Silent Night.”

So, although others may celebrate the new year on January 1, we celebrated the beginning of another year of our Lord on December 3, 2018. I pray that you may find some time during this season of Advent to make room in your heart for a Savior who was born a human infant yet was the most holy Son of God.