Fourth Sunday of Advent the last before Christmas
It's hard to imagine that in just a few more days we will have arrived at Christmas Day.
It’s seemed so long in coming and now things have speeded up until it’s here. Rather like Mary felt, I suppose.
This coming Sunday is “Fork ‘andles” Sunday if you are a Two Ronnies fan, otherwise known as the Fourth Sunday of Advent.
The first mention of Advent occurred in the 300’s AD at a meeting of church leaders called the Council of Sargossa.
It gradually developed into a season that stretched across the month of December.
Nobody is really sure where the Advent Wreath came from originally and traditions vary.
In Scandinavia, Lutheran churches light a candle each day of December; by Christmas, they have 24 candles burning.
Another Advent candle option is a single candle with 24 marks on the side – the candle is lit each day and allowed to melt down to the next day’s mark.
The most common Advent candle tradition, however, involves four candles.
A new candle is lit on each of the four Sundays before Christmas.
Each candle represents something different, although traditions vary.
Often, the first, second, and fourth candles are purple; the third candle is rose-coloured.
Sometimes all the candles are red; in other traditions, all four candles are blue or white.
More often than not, a fifth white candle is placed in the middle and is lit on Christmas Day to celebrate Jesus’ birth.
The candles usually represent faith, hope, joy and peace and the last one is Christ coming into the world.
Increasingly a tradition of the Spanish speaking world is the journey of the Posadas.
The word means “journeys” and Mary and Joseph travel from house to house or church to church, staying for a night on the journey.
They will probably now be getting ready for their return to church to be there for the Christmas Eve service and, of course, Jesus will join them by Christmas Day.
Many of the churches in town now have early evening services, particularly for the children.
This is a lovely way to start Christmas – the magic of the nativity story followed by bed, so they can get up at a ridiculously early hour to see what presents have been left by the mysterious visitor in the night.
Whether you are going to a service on Sunday, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or all three, I hope you find the true joy and peace of Christmas and I’ll see you again in the New Year.