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In the Christian Church Advent is the period preceding the Christmas season. It begins on the Sunday nearest November 30, the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle, and covers four Sundays. This year Advent began last Sunday, December 2.

The word advent, from Latin, means “the coming.” As the Christmas season has become more secular, with advertisers urging holiday gift-givers to buy and buy some more, Advent still focuses more on the observance of ancient customs. Christian families find quiet moments lighting candles in the Advent wreath, and children use Advent calendars to count the days until Christmas.

It is unknown when the period of preparation for Christmas that is now called Advent first began – it was certainly in existence from about 480. Some have even said it goes back to the time of the Twelve Apostles or that it was founded by Saint Peter himself. This has led to the conclusion that it is “impossible to claim with confidence a credible explanation of the origin of Advent”.

Originally, it was a time when converts to Christianity readied themselves for baptism. Advent was considered a pre-Christmas season of Lent when Christians devoted themselves to prayer and fasting. By the 6th century, however, Roman Christians had tied Advent to the coming of Christ. But the “coming” they had in mind was not Christ’s first coming in the manger in Bethlehem, but his second coming in the clouds as the judge of the world.

Advent hymns are not “Christmas” songs. They are ‘waiting” songs. Songs that help us anticipate the coming of Christ, which is celebrated on Christmas Day. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is one of my favorites.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel

This hymn is a prayer that anticipates the coming of Christ to the earth. His coming as the Messiah (“deliverer”) was first prophesied in the sixth century B.C., when the Jews were captive in Babylon. For centuries thereafter, faithful Hebrews looked for their Messiah with great longing and expectation, echoing the prayer that he would “ransom captive Israel.”

Jesus Christ the Redeemer—capstone of man’s longing through the ages—is addressed in the first stanza of this hymn as “Emmanuel.” From beginning to end, all the stanzas of the hymn remind us of Christ’s first advent, and project our attention to His second coming.

An Advent Prayer in the United Methodist Hymnal (#201) helps prepare us for a proper celebration of Christmas.

Merciful God, you sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation.

Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may celebrate aright the coming of the nativity and may await with joy the coming of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever. Amen.

May this be our prayer as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

 

 

 

 

*It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold!
Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From heaven’s all gracious King!
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Christmas shepherds

Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing.
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

Christmas nativity

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

Christmas 2

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world hath suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love song which they bring:
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When, with the ever-circling years,
Shall come the Age of Gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And all the world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Merry Christmas!

christmas 4

I’d Miilad Said Oua Sana Saida (Arabic)

Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan (Mandarin)
Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok (Czech)
Gladelig Jul (Danish)
Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar (Dutch)
Joyeux Noel (French)
Froehliche Weihnachten (German)
Mo’adim Lesimkha. Chena tova (Hebrew)
Bada Din Mubarak Ho (Hindi)
Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah (Iraqi)
Nollaig Shona Dhuit (Irish)
Buon Natale or Buone Feste Natalizie (Italian)
Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto (Japanese)
Sung Tan Chuk Ha (Korean)
Merry Keshmish (Navajo)
Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia (Polish)
Portuguese – Feliz Natal

Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva i s Novim Godom (Russian)
Feliz Navidad (Spanish)

Krismasi Njema (Swahili)
Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun (Turkish)
Srozhdestvom Kristovym (Ukrainian)
Chung Mung Giang Sinh (Vietnamese)

Jamie Jenkins
*Edmund H. Sears wrote these words at the re­quest of his friend, W. P. Lunt, a min­is­ter in Quin­cy, Mass­a­chu­setts. The hymn was first sung at the 1849 Sun­day School Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tion.

*Text: Edmund H. Sears, 1810-1876