RELIGION
12/01/2012 11:24 am ET Updated Dec 02, 2012

Advent 2012: A Season Of Waiting For The Coming Of Christ (PHOTOS, REFLECTIONS)

SALISBURY, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01:  (EDITORS NOTE A MULTIPLE LONG EXPOSURE WAS USED IN THE CREATION OF THIS IMAGE) In this com
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: (EDITORS NOTE A MULTIPLE LONG EXPOSURE WAS USED IN THE CREATION OF THIS IMAGE) In this combination of two images the interior of Salisbury Cathedral is illuminated by trails of candles carried by choristers during the annual 'darkness to light' advent procession on December 1, 2012 in Salisbury, England. The service - which begins with the medieval cathedral in total darkness and silence before the Advent Candle is lit at the West End - is one of the most popular services of the liturgical year. The annual advent service, which takes place over three nights and is seen by several thousand people, is a mix of music and readings during which two great candlelit processions move around the different spaces in the 750-year-old building which, by the end, is illuminated by almost 1300 candles and is a spectacular start to the Christmas season. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Editor's note: Dear reader, may you have a blessed Advent! HuffPost Religion invites you to share your Advent reflections and experiences with us. What does the season of Advent mean to you? What spiritual exercises and meditations do you practice during Advent? Whether you're observing Advent for the first time, or you've observed Advent your entire life, we want to hear from you. Send your personal reflections (300-500 words) and photos to religion@huffingtonpost.com. We are excited to embark on this journey with you.

[Scroll down to see our Advent journal.]

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.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
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.

In 2012, the Advent season begins on Dec. 2, 2012 and ends on Dec. 24, 2012. The Eastern Churches' equivalent of Advent, Nativity Fast, is 40 days long and began on Nov. 15, 2012.

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.

Images Of Advent Darkness to Light procession:

PHOTO GALLERY
Advent: Darkness to Light

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