Advent is a season that begins four Sundays before Christmas (on 29th Nov this year). Christmas Eve marks the end, therefore there is some variation in its length.
The season of Christmas actually begins on Christmas Eve and lasts for twelve days, ending on 6th Jan. (The twelve-day season of Christmas did not start with the song. It was the other way around.) So, this time before Christmas is Advent, a season of preparation for Christmas. We 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 Saviour, and we look forward to our Saviour’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 this season we keep in mind both ‘advents’ of Christ, the first in Bethlehem and the second yet to come.
At each of the four Sundays in Advent we light a candle in our advent crown to remember those who prepared the way for Jesus’ coming at Bethlehem.
29th Nov: The Patriarchs. [Abraham, Isaac and Jacob] 6th Dec: Old Testament Prophets. 13th Dec: John the Baptist. 20th Dec: Mary. The candle in the middle is lit just after midnight at the Communion service on Christmas Eve. We light it again on Christmas morning.