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The Season of Advent

Liturgical Color: Purple or Blue


Advent is a season of four weeks including four Sundays. Advent derives from the Latin adventus, which means “coming.” The season proclaims the comings of the Christ – whose birth we prepare to celebrate once again, who comes continually in the Word and Spirit, and whose return in final victory we anticipate. Each year, Advent calls the community of faith to prepare for these comings; historically, the season was marked by fasts for preparation.

Each Sunday of Advent has its distinctive theme: Christ’s coming in final victory (First Sunday), John the Baptist (Second and Third Sundays), and the events immediately preceding the birth of Jesus Christ (Fourth Sunday).

Purple or blue are the liturgical colors for paraments, stoles, and banners. Visuals of the season may include an Advent Wreath (an evergreen wreath with four purple candles and a central white Christ candle added on Christmas Eve/Day), evergreen wreaths and branches, a Chrismon tree (an evergreen tree covered with white monograms of Christ), and a Jesse tree (a tree with signs of the ancestors of Christ). Other symbols include trumpets for Isaiah, messianic rose, star of Jacob, and fleur-de-lis.

The Advent wreath is a simple circle of evergreen branches, a sign of life without end; its four Advent candles encircle a central white Christ candle. Some traditions use the color rose on the third Sunday of Advent and for this reason use three purple candles and one rose candle. United Methodists, however, encourage purple for the whole season of Advent and therefore use four purple candles. Each Sunday of Advent may include the lighting of the Advent candles by an appointed family or person. Each Sunday one additional candle is lighted until all four are lighted. Finally, on Christmas Eve and Day, the middle white candle is lighted. A nativity scene replaces the Advent wreath after Christmas day.

The Chrismon tree, a sign begun in the Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Danville, Virginia, has now spread to many other congregations. This evergreen tree is covered with signs of Christ, such as stars. Many congregations save the Chrismon tree trunk to make a cross for Lent.

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