SUNDAY, DECEMBER 1: Western Christians enter the season of Advent today, waiting in joyful anticipation for the coming of Jesus: today is Advent Sunday. Churches and families across America typically will light a first candle today in the Advent wreath, marking the weeks until Christmas. Some churches also are adding special St. Nicholas Day programs this week, to remind children that the roots of the Santa Claus legends spring from an actual Christian saint.
STIR-UP SUNDAY: Did you know that some churches also use the informal phrase Stir-Up Sunday? The phrase refers to the inspiration of the Advent season and comes from a 16th-Century Book of Common Prayer reading for the day: “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people.” But in the Victorian era, this was the day when British families gathered in the kitchen to stir up the Christmas pudding. Sometimes families would pop a coin into the mix as well—so that whoever happened to get that coin in a scoop of the finished pudding would have good luck. Unfortunately, with the … ahem, the advent of ready-made Christmas puddings, a national survey in the UK revealed that most children these days have never gathered with their parents to stir up a from-scratch pudding. (Read much more about The Flavors of Faith in Lynne Meredith Golodner’s book.)
Remember that Eastern Christians began their annual Nativity Fast in prayerful preparation for Christmas back on November 15!
For Western Christianity, the Advent season consists of four Sundays, all of which are marked with a candle on the traditional Advent Wreath. Many church groups offer inspirational resources:
CATHOLIC: Catholic Culture offers a prayer for the blessing of the Advent Wreath, recipes for plum pudding and fruit cake, and instructions for a Jesse Tree. Also, the readings for today are at the website for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
UNITED METHODIST: This year, the United Methodist Church has posted six sets of meditations for the weeks of Advent.
EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH in AMERICA: The ELCA has an easy-to-download-and-print set of readings and reflections for lighting the Advent candles.
PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (USA): The Presbyterian Church has a colorful PDF with Advent readings.
ANGLICANS ONLINE: This isn’t a denominational website, but Anglicans Online has a very extensive Advent resources list of links.
Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and Methodist churches use violet-colored vestments and décor during Advent; the color is changed to rose on the third Sunday of Advent, or Guadete Sunday. The Advent season officially ends on the evening of December 24.