Advent is a period beginning with the Sunday nearest to the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (30 November) and embracing four Sundays. The first Sunday may be as early as 27 November, and then Advent has twenty-eight days, or as late as 3 December, giving the season only twenty-one days.
With Advent the ecclesiastical year begins in the Western churches. During this time the faithful are admonished
to prepare themselves worthily to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord's coming into the world as the incarnate God of love,
thus to make their souls fitting abodes for the Redeemer coming in Holy Communion and through grace, and
thereby to make themselves ready for His final coming as judge, at death and at the end of the world.
It cannot be determined with any degree of certainty when the celebration of Advent was first introduced into the Church. The preparation for the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord was not held before the feast itself existed, and of this we find no evidence before the end of the fourth century, when, according to Duchesne [Christian Worship (London, 1904), 260], it was celebrated throughout the whole Church, by some on 25 December, by others on 6 January.
The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. A tradition is that each week represents one thousand years, to sum to the 4,000 years from Adam and Eve until the Birth of the Savior. Three candles are purple and one is rose. The purple candles in particular symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken at this time. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the priest also wears rose vestments at Mass; Gaudete Sunday is the Sunday of rejoicing, because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and they are close to Christmas. The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead. The light again signifies Christ, the Light of the world.
You will need a tall, brightly colored candle. Mark it with 24 short lines from top to bottom. Each day during Advent find a few quiet moments with your family when you can light the candle, read the little thought for the day, and say the short prayer together.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for your love. Come, Lord Jesus, come.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He created the sun, the moon, the stars and all the plants and animals. R. [Heavenly Father, we thank you for your love. Come, Lord Jesus, come.]
God then created man and woman. He trusted them to take care of his creation and follow his ways but they let him down. R.
As men and women multiplied, so did their sinfulness. There were some good people, and one of them, Noah, was told by God to build an ark on dry land to save himself and all living things from a flood which was to come. R.
Noah did as God told him and built the ark. The great flood came but Noah and his family and all the animals which they had taken into the ark were safe. They did not drown and when the waters subsided they left the ark and populated the world again. R.
Many hundreds of years later, there lived a descendant of Noah called Abraham. Abraham obeyed God when he was asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac. At the last moment God stopped him harming Isaac. In return for Abraham's obedience, God promised that his family would increase and spread. From his line a Savior would come for all people. R.
When Isaac was grown up, Abraham sent out a servant to find a wife for him. The servant met a young woman at a spring; she drew water for him and for his camels. Her name was Rebekah and she became Isaac's wife. R.
Isaac and Rebekah had two sons, Jacob and Esau. Once, while Jacob was asleep, he saw in a dream a ladder set upon earth and reaching all the way to heaven. The angels of God were going up and down it. And he heard the voice of God promising to give him the land on which he lay and to send the Redeemer of the world through his family. R.
Jacob had twelve sons but he liked Joseph best of all. The rest of the brothers became envious of Joseph and tried to get rid of him. They sold him to merchants who were passing by and told their father that Joseph had been killed by wild animals. The merchants took Joseph with them to Egypt. R.
Joseph did well in Egypt and eventually become an important advisor to the king of Egypt, the Pharaoh. Meanwhile, many of his people and their families came to live in Egypt and settled there. A long time after Joseph died, when a new Pharaoh was in power, an order went out that all male sons of the Hebrews (Joseph's people) had to be killed. One such baby, Moses, was rescued from death by being found in the bulrushes by the king's daughter, who took him in and looked after him. R.
When Moses grew up he left Egypt, but whilst looking after sheep, he saw a bush on fire and from the middle of it he heard the voice of God telling him to return to Egypt and deliver his people from slavery. So Moses went back to Egypt and led his people out through the wilderness and the Red Sea. When they reached a mountain called Sinai, Moses spent time alone with God and then proclaimed the Ten Commandments. R.
Moses then led his people further through the wilderness. They got very thirsty and began to grumble about Moses, forgetting that God had promised to be with them always. God told Moses to strike a certain rock to find water, he did this and water came pouring out. The people were saved from dying of thirst. R.
For a very long time Moses continued to lead his people on through the wilderness and also through countries full of fruit. All the time they were looking for the promised land and a pillar of cloud guided them all the way. R.
As Moses and his people drew near to the promised land, the Lord showed it to Moses from the top of a mountain. Moses died on that mountain and so he never set foot in the promised land. R.
The people of Israel arrived at the promised land but when they came to the city of Jericho they could not enter it because it was fortified by strong walls and the people living there would not let them in. Joshua, the new leader, told the priests to carry the ark of the covenant which contained the Ten Commandments of God at the head of a procession around the walls. They blew trumpets and all the people shouted, and the walls came tumbling down. The people of Israel entered Jericho as God had promised. R.
The people divided the land amongst their twelve tribes (each tribe descended from one of Jacob's sons) and they elected kings. One of them, King Saul, was disobedient to God and God sent his prophet Samuel to name a new king. Samuel chose David, a young shepherd boy. R.
When Saul died, David became king and ruled successfully for many years. During his time he moved his court to Jerusalem. It was here that he decided that after he died, his son, Solomon was to be king. It is believed that many of the Psalms which we read in the Old Testament are from this time. R.
Solomon ruled with great wisdom and prudence. Under his leadership the people of Israel grew very prosperous and successful. Solomon built the first Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem but in spite of this, God's people became forgetful of God and all his goodness to them. R.
The people of God grew self-centered and greedy. They forgot that God had promised to send them a Savior and many of them lost their faith. God sent many prophets to warn his people about the dangers of the way in which they were living. Sometimes the people took notice, but very often they ignored what the prophets said to them and continued to ignore God. R.
Many, many years later, a young girl, Mary, was living in the little town of Nazareth. She was to marry Joseph a local carpenter. Both Mary and Joseph were very good people. They both listened to God and did what he asked of them. An angel came to Mary and told her that she was to give birth to a son whose name was to be Jesus. He was the Son of God. Mary said, "Let it be done to me according to your word." R.
The angel had told Mary that her cousin, Elizabeth, was also expecting a baby. This was a surprise because Elizabeth was quite old but it was a sign that God is all-powerful. Mary went to see Elizabeth, and together they were able to share the great events that were happening to them. They praised God. R.
Elizabeth gave birth to a son whose name was John. He was to prepare his people for the arrival of their Savior. John lived in the desert. When he was grown up he went to the river Jordan where he preached to the people and invited them to repent for their sins to God for the past and to begin a holy life by being baptized. R.
When the time came for Mary to have her baby, an official decree had been issued by the government which said that everyone had to return to their own city to register. Mary and Joseph had to go to Bethlehem. R.
Bethlehem was known as the city of David after King David and it was very overcrowded with visitors who had come to be registered. Mary and Joseph couldn't find anywhere to stay and they had to shelter for the night in a stable behind an inn. R.
During that first night in the stable Mary gave birth to her son. This son was Jesus, the Savior, who had been promised by God to his people throughout their history for so many years. Mary wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. Jesus came to save everybody in the world. God sent us his Son to show us exactly how he wants us to live each day. R.