Saturday, 1 December 2012

1st December 2012

In Scandinavian countries Advent runs from the first of December to Christmas Eve, but the first Sunday of Advent falls before December brgins in four years out of seven. The four Sundays before the birth of  Jesus Christ is celebrated bear the name Christians give to the season.

In Eastern Orthodox communities the weeks between All Souls Day and Advent Sunday are a time of preparation to engage in Advent, as are the '-gesima' Sundays before Lent in the West. 

The Western Church lectionary has reconnected with this idea to an extent. Designating the last three Sundays of November the 'Kingdom' season acknowledges this.

Two sets of themes are traditionally connected with Advent. The first: Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell. The second: Patriarchs, Prophets, Forerunner (John the Baptist), God-bearer (the Virgin Mary). 

The first formed the backbone of much Christian thinking and preaching for a millennium, and is reflected powerfully in mediaeval iconography. The second is based on the revised scripture readings set for Advent Sundays, represented visually in the candles of the Advent wreath lit progressively each Sunday.

November, because of All Saints and All Souls at the beginning, with Remembrance Day commemorating the war dead in the 20th century added on, is with good reason designated the Month of the Dead in some devotional schemes. The Sunday lectionary for this period refers a good deal to the end of the world and judgement. The liturgical year concludes by celebrating Christ the King and the Kingdom of God, with overtones of heaven. Hell seems to have slipped out of the picture. Scripture has far less to say about it than popular imagination does.

The core of Christian tradition is concerned with giving higher spiritual meaning to the passage of time and seasons. It looks beyond in the direction of eternity and heaven, chiefly to affirm that all will come right in the end.

The fulfilment of human destiny lies in worshipping the author of existence: God who is 'All in All'. We may be prisoners of time, yet it's in time and through time that we are set free.

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