The Advent and Christmas celebrations evolve from one week to the next
as an intricately interwoven fabric of the story of Christ's coming into our lives. The complete cycle spans from the first
Sunday of Advent to the Baptism of the Lord. The celebrations of Advent support the themes of hope and prophecy. During the
Christmas season the readings speak of hope fulfilled and the incarnation that was foreseen.
The Two Comings of Christ
More than any other time within the church year we look forward
to the future as well as the past. We look forward to a time when God's power will break through completely and finally.
It is with joyful hope that we wait for Jesus to come again in the Second Coming. The readings throughout this cycle encourage
us to actively live out our faith, and to pursue God with dedication and determination. This eschatological emphasis is most
prevalent in the Sunday scripture readings of the first few weeks of Advent and continues to a lesser degree up to the feast
of the Epiphany.
The other side of this cycle is of course, reflection on the First Coming,
the Incarnation, the celebration of God among us. Christmas is more than a commemorative feast in which we look back. It is
a feast in which we look around us to see God in our midst. St. Athanasius proposed that before the birth of Christ, the universe
and it's contents were in retrograde, slipped slowly into darkness. The coming of God-made-flesh, reanimated the entire universe.
We see this concept in the third Christmas preface: "Your eternal Word has taken upon himself human weakness, giving our mortal
nature, immortal value."
Incorporate some aspect of the liturgical celebration that is continuous
throughout the seasons of Advent and Christmas. Liturgical colors will change from violet (Advent) to white (Christmas) but
basic decor concepts used during Advent could be maintained during the Christmas season.
This concept of keeping element of Advent in the Christmas celebrations
could include similar musical responses such as psalms and fraction rites. Be creative, find a special musical response that
you can use throughout the entire cycle.
Processions involving the assembly can add a meaningful dimension: during
Advent - procession with Advent candles, during the Christmas season- processions with the Holy Books - the Word who dwells
among us.. Whatever your choices are, remember that these two seasons make up one cycle.