It was Pope Gregory 1 [590-604] who settled the Season of Advent of four Sundays with a very clear emphasis on the Christian hope of the Coming of Christ. Benard of Clairvaux [d. 1153] summarises the theology of the Seasons of Advent as the three comings of Christ, past, present and future. ’In the first, Christ was our redemption; in the last he will appear as our life; in the middle coming, he is our rest and our consolation’. It has also been suggested that one cannot fully understand Jesus’ birth without first understanding that he is Saviour and Lord.
Advent Sunday marks the beginning of the Liturgical Year. The Season includes the four Sundays before Christmas, which will fix the date of the First Sunday of Advent between 27 November and 3 December. This year Advent Sunday falls on the 27 November.
The liturgical Colour for the season of Advent is purple.
About the Readings for the Sundays of Advent
The four Sundays of Advent follow the individual themes:
First Sunday Dramatic fulfilment of God’s plan for the world
Isaiah 2: 1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24: 36-44
Second Sunday John the Baptist ushers in the new age
Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72: 1-7; 20-21; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3: 1-12
Third Sunday The inter-relationship between John and Jesus
Isaiah 35: 1-10; Psalm 146:5-12; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11: 2-11
Fourth Sunday The annunciation to Joseph and Mary
Isaiah 7:10-16; Psalm 80:1-7,17-19; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1: 18-25
The first two Sundays focus our attention on the second coming of Jesus as our hope, and in the prophesies of the First Covenant. The second two Sundays remind us of the preparations God made for Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem in fulfilment of those prophecies. We are reminded that we live in the between times, the now of our salvation and the not yet of its complete fulfilment. The themes are those of hope and expectation for both the first and second coming of Christ. They challenge us reconsider and engage with the Word and Liturgy the revelation of Christ’s time in the midst of our time. We begin the year praying together about the end of history.
[The Anglican Church of South Africa. 2016. Lectionary Advent 2016- Advent 2017 Year A].