The word “Advent” literally means “arrival.” During this season, we prepare for the many arrivals of Christ – as an infant born in a stable, as the Son of Man who will return to judge the living and the dead at the end of days, and as the one whom we will meet when we pass over to the other side of the grave. You’ll hear about each of these three “arrivals” in our prayers, scripture readings, and hymnody during Advent.
At All Saints’, the color for Advent is Sarum blue. Blue is the color of the Virgin Mary, whom we remember and celebrate, especially during this time as she bears our Lord. Another name for the Virgin Mary is the Theotokos, the God-bearer. At All Saints, we have a special devotion of and fondness for the Virgin. Every time our prayer book gives us the option to include Mary in our devotions, we do! Sarum blue has another special meaning for us. Sarum is the Latin word for “Salisbury,” the English cathedral at which the tradition of wearing blue in Advent began. When you look up at the altar, the acolytes, and the sacred ministers all clothed in blue, remember both the Blessed Virgin and our English spiritual heritage.
In Advent, we renew the ancient practice of lighting candles arranged around a wreath. An Advent Wreath is a circle of evergreens with four blue candles around its edge, and a white candle – the Christ Candle – in the center. The four blue candles represent the four weeks of Advent. A single blue candle is lit every day during the first week of Advent and an additional one each week thereafter. As the season progresses, the additional candles and the light they give signify the approach of the One who said, “I am the Light” – Jesus Christ. Finally, on Christmas Eve, the Christ Candle in the middle of the wreath is lit to show that the Light of Christ has come into the world. On Christmas Eve, the blue candles are replaced with white, in festive celebration of the mystery of the incarnation.
The two evergreen trees in the chapel are not Christmas Trees. They are Jesse Trees, decorated with ornaments which represent the Family Tree of Jesus and God’s acts of salvation through the ages. Jesse is the father of King David from whom both Jesus’ mother, Mary, and her husband, Joseph, descend. In Isaiah 11:1-3, we read, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him.” Christ is the shoot from the stump of Jesse, the fulfilment of King David’s great lineage. Through God’s salvific acts in history, we are grafted into this family tree as well. As the weeks of Advent pass, more ornaments are added to the Jesse Trees.
May you be blessed this Advent.