Advent Reading for Today
A few years ago someone gave me a printout of advent readings for family worship. I cannot remember who gave them to me now, and I’m afraid I cannot properly cite the source, but it is such a good resource that I feel that I must pass it along. Let it suffice to say that this is not my original work.
If your family is not already engaged in daily family worship, I pray that these advent readings will become the start of a beautiful tradition in your home.
Since I am a day behind in posting them, I will post two a day for the next couple of days.
Introduction to Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany
OUR CHRISTIAN HERITAGE
Advent and Christmas seasons are with us again. Like the seasons of the year in nature, the season of the ecclesiastical calendar and the national calendar come full circle. This is only appropriate since: “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Col. 1:16-18).
These are seasons of annual focus and remembrance. But as is true of all liturgy or form, it can point to a true or a false declaration. There is much in the national liturgy that points away from the advent of Christ. Our purpose, in these next few weeks, will be to draw attention to the true message of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. These are central events in the life of Christ and are profoundly significant for all of human history. God became a man. He came to rescue His people. This is worthy of all our celebratory efforts.
Advent is that period of great anticipatory joy—it is a time of preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ arrival in Bethlehem as a helpless infant. In the Western liturgy, Advent begins four Sundays prior to December 25th—the Sunday closest to November 30. The annual commemoration of Jesus’ birth begins the Christmas cycle of the liturgical year—a cycle that runs from Christmas Eve to the Sunday after the feast of the Epiphany.
The four weeks of Advent are often thought of as symbolizing the four different ways that Jesus comes into the world: (1) at his birth as a helpless infant at Bethlehem, (2) at his arrival in the hearts of believers, (3) at his death, and (4) at his arrival on Judgment Day. Because Christmas falls on a different day of the week each year, the fourth week of Advent is never really finished; it is abruptly, joyously, and solemnly abrogated by the annual coming again of Jesus at Christmas.
CHRISTMAS: ALL TWELVE DAYS
As we celebrate Christmas, few of us think of Christmas Day as a beginning. For most families Christmas is the culmination of weeks of planning, shopping, and anticipation. Many are not aware that Christmas is but the first day of the twelve-days of Christmas.
Ever since the Council of Tours met in 567 and proclaimed the twelve days from Christmas to Epiphany as a sacred and festive time, the Church officially has observed both an Advent season in preparation for, and a Christmas season for the celebration of our Lord’s nativity. Recognizing how the Church year dramatizes the biblical story of what Christ has done for the salvation of all people, we have been trying to recover some of the richness of these celebrations. The church year forms an annual curriculum that tells the story of our faith: those who understand it understand the basics of the gospel.
The Christian calendar, therefore, is a great way for families to focus their worship and tradition. Repeated traditions (within biblical boundaries) help all of us know and remember who we are, developing our identity as God’s covenant people. And celebration of the themes and seasons of the life and work of Christ helps families express their faith.
The twelve days of Christmas traditionally end with the celebration of the eve of Epiphany on Twelfth Night, January fifth. Broadly speaking, the word “epiphany” means a sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something; a comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization. In the context of the Christian Church, Epiphany has a more specific reference: it celebrates the manifestation of the divine nature of Jesus to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi. The feast of Epiphany is observed on January sixth, twelve days after Christmas.