Advent season begins
For many Christians, the Advent season is preparation for Christmas, but area pastors say the four-week calendar of reflection, repentance and prayer is also in preparation for the second coming of Christ.
Advent starts Sunday, Dec. 2, and concludes on Dec. 24 or Christmas Eve.
"For the Catholic church Advent marks the beginning of the liturgical year," said Monsignor Jeffrey Wald, pastor of St. James Basilica.
The Catholic Church splits Advent into two sections with two weeks focusing on the second coming of Christ in glory at the end time amid the clouds, according to scripture, he said. Then two weeks focus on salvation and looking forward to the birth of our Lord in Bethlehem, he said.
Advent helps to prepare not only to celebrate a day but the reality, the coming of the Lord, his birth and our salvation, Wald said. Advent is looking forward to the second coming of Christ and our destiny of eternal life in heaven, he said.
"Advent is not preparing for one day and moving on," Wald said. "This is a lesson in which to live our lives."
The life of Jesus is somewhat treated like looking through an old photo album, he said. His life is about the mercy of God and his great love for us and our destiny through baptism, he said.
"It is a way of life for us and our own destiny and the great love that God the father has to send his only son to give his life for us," Wald said.
To visualize this preparation, priests wear purple or violet vestments instead of the green vestments of ordinary time. Four violet candles represent each Sunday of advent.
The priests wear white and gold vestments in celebration on Christmas. A fifth white candle is to announce the birth of Jesus of Nazareth as the savior on Christmas.
The Rev. Kristi Weber, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, said parishioners are incorporating Advent into social media by writing reflections to be sent out as email devotions or on Facebook. Others are providing Sunday morning testimonials on the theme of making room for Jesus, she said.
Advent is getting together with friends and family for some, while for others it is setting up a Nativity scene in the home to remind them of Jesus's birth, she said. Others light Advent candles at mealtime or an follow an Advent calendar, she said.
"In making room for Jesus, it opens our hearts to be ready to hear the good news that Jesus was born into the world," Weber said. "Advent is to show us new life and to show us God's mercy and to show us God's forgiveness and grace."
The Rev. Martin Nussbaum, pastor of Zion United Church of Christ in Medina, said Advent is central to the preparing for the coming of Christ.
"I don't think every Christian recognizes that," Nussbaum said. "I remind people each year that the first week of Advent is actually our New Year."
The month of December is the journey of Advent, he said. It is about responding to the light of Christ and learning to live with Christ as king and sovereign, he said.
Pastor James Venegas of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamestown, said his church does not follow the Advent calendar but there is no opposition to it. The sermons are consistent with the arrival of Christ, fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament.
"All happened as God predicted and we believe we will see him again," Venegas said. "We certainly uplift the birth of Christ and celebrate the meaning that comes with it."