Advent (from the Latin adventus meaning "coming") is a liturgical season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. Advent marks the beginning of the Western liturgical year and begins on Advent Sunday, the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, Dec. 25. For Christians, the season of Advent serves as a reminder both of the original waiting by Israelites for the birth of the Messiah, and the waiting by Christians for the return of Christ. The most famous hymn of Advent is "O Come Emmanuel." Its lyrics, based on the Prophet Isaiah, articulate the hopeful anticipation of the Advent season:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
Originally observed as a time of fasting and penitence, the emphasis of the season of Advent is one of expectation and anticipation for the coming Messiah. The season of Advent starts out in a sombre tone and for the first two weeks, purple and blue are the primary colors used in church. On the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday (gaudete means rejoice) pink or rose are the primary colors used. This shift in color symbolizes change in emphasis from expectation to celebration.
The themes of the Advent season are Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Lighting of candles, especially the circular Advent wreath with five candles is an important tradition of the Advent season. Each Sunday of Advent, one of four candles is lit -- with the final candle, the Christ Candle, being lit on Christmas Eve.
PHOTOS: Images Of Advent