Advent is the season of the liturgical year in which Christians prepare remember Jesus' birth, celebrate their commitment to living as his disciples, and look forward to the time when God's will is done on earth as it is in heaven. Advent began yesterday, on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and ends with the coming of Christmas.
In some times and places, Advent observances have had a strong penitential flavor. That does not make sense to me. We should celebrate good news. Turning away from one's sin can help a person to align him/herself more fully with God. However, Jesus was, and will be, born regardless of whether I turn from sin toward God.
Thankfully, a growing number of Churches and congregations are setting aside the idea that Advent is a penitential season. Symbolizing this change, royal blue is supplanting penitential purple as the seasonal color. Blue recalls Jesus' Davidic lineage (a maternal lineage according to the New Testament!) and the promises of hope, peace, and life from God that Israel believed it had received.
In the hustle and often-stressful rush of Christmas preparations, this year I have set two personal goals. First, I hope to keep my preparations in perspective. That is, to see the preparations as symbolic acts: gifts and cards as tokens of love for family and friends; decorations as catalysts for the Spirit; special meals as opportunities to cultivate deeper relationships.
If interested, my sermon for the First Sunday of Advent is here.