29 November 2009

Adviento del Año 2009

Now that Thanksgiving and November, "el mes de ánimas" (the month of remembering the faithful departed), are behind us we look forward to celebrating the the birth of the Messiah and the Christmas season. In Mexico, “La Navidad” begins with “El Adviento” (Advent) and the season runs all the way to February 2nd , “La Fiesta de Candelaria”. In English we call February 2nd by various names; Candlemas Day, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, or the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. The February 2nd date is also known secularly in the U.S. as “Groundhog Day”. In any case, it is a long stretch from the beginning of December to the beginning of February when the Christmas decorations are finally taken down and the Christ child is removed from the manger, given new clothing, and put away until the next year. The Mexican people, like many people everywhere, enjoy Christmas more than any other time of the year.

The English word "advent", or in Spanish, "adviento", comes from the Latin word "adventus", which in itself is a translation of the Greek word "parousia", which is a reference to the Second Coming. Christians believe that the season of Advent serves a dual reminder of the original waiting that was done by the Hebrews for the birth of their Messiah as well as the waiting that Christians currently do in expectation of the Second Coming of Christ. For that reason and because of the ritual of lighting the advent candles there is something tugging at my heart that says perhaps we should also celebrate Hanukkah (Chanukah ), the Jewish festival of lights, in tandem with our Jewish brethren. After all, we share the same Old Testament. The Jewish festival tradition incorporates a nine branched candelabra called a "menorah" and commemorates the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and the miracle of the lamps burning for eight nights with very little oil. The Hanukkah festival lasts for eight nights and a new candle on the menorah is lit on each successive night. The ninth candle on the menorah, is called the “shamash” candle and it is used for the lighting of the other eight candles. I thought that it might be "apropos" if Hanukkah would start on December 16th or 17th at the same time as the Mexican Posada season gets under way and both celebrations would conclude on December 24th. However, The Jewish festivals are based upon the lunar calendar and Hanukkah moves around quite a bit. The first night of Hanukkah won't fall on December 17th until the year 2014 and after that it will be quite a long spell before it repeats.

Now...before anyone from either side accuses me of blasphemy I can assure you that this is just a fanciful dream of mine and as we witness so many religious conflicts unfold around the world I realize more and more that it seems to be the tendency of organized religion to drive people apart and not bring them together. The first day of Hanukkah in 2009 is on Saturday December 12, meaning the first candle is lit on Friday night December 11. The Hanukkah holiday runs 8 days through December 19, 2009. This year the first day of Hanukka falls on the feast day of La Virgen de Guadalupe, a major holiday in Mexico for Mexicans whether they are Catholics, or Christians, or Jews or Atheists or "whatever". La Virgen de Guadalupe is a national symbol that unites all Mexicans. She is the heart and soul of Mexico.

Technically, the Christian Advent begins with the Sunday nearest to the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle which is November 30th and covers four Sundays, lasting until midnight on Christmas Eve. The first Sunday may be as early as November 27th, and in that case Advent has twenty-eight days. In some years the first Sunday may be as late as December 3rd giving the season only twenty-one days. This year, 2009, Advent begins on Sunday, November 29th and Advent has twenty-six days. My wife Gina made her her “Corona de Adviento” or “Advent Wreath” this evening and you can see it in the picture below. Gina's “Corona de Adviento” has the traditional five candles, three violet, one rose, and one white. The first two violet candles are lit in succession on the first and second Sunday and on the third Sunday they are joined by the rose candle and this Sunday is called “Gaudete Sunday” and marks more or less the halfway point of Advent. The word “Gaudete” comes from Latin and means to rejoice. On this Sunday the joy of expectation is emphasized. The nine days of the Mexican Posadas generally begin around this time also. On the fourth Sunday, the last violet candle is lit and the white candle in the center is lit on Christmas Eve after sundown. Oh-oh, by now some of you may have realized that the three candles on Gina's wreath that are supposed to be violet are red and not violet. That is because just like last year, at the last minute we couldn't find any violet candles. However, I don't think using red Advent candles instead of violet ones will add much to our time in Purgatory. Next year I must remember to plan ahead.

I know that since Advent starts today I should have reminded you about it about a week ago but I forgot. That's okay... it's not too late. If you don't start your Advent prayers on the first day the sun won't fall from the sky. Even if you are a day or two late I am sure that the Lord will be happy to hear from you. We invite you to join us in celebrating Advent. Just like we do every year, here are the same scripture verses that we will concentrate on for each of the four Sundays and Christmas Eve:

First Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 11:1-10
Luke: 1:26-38
Isaiah 7:10-14
Matthew 1:18-24

Second Sunday of Advent
Micah 5:2
Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11
Isaiah 2:1-5
Matthew 3:1-6

Third Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 9:6-7
John 1:19-34
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Philippians 2:1-11

Fourth Sunday of Advent
Malachi 3:1-5
Romans 8:18-25
Isaiah 52:7-10
Revelation 21:1-4

Christmas Eve
Isaiah 9:1-6
Luke 2:1-20
John 1:1-18
Titus 2:11-14

You can find plenty of scripts and fancy prayers to go along with the scripture reading and the lighting of the candles on the Internet but I suggest that you do what we do and just “wing it”. God will understand, and anyway, I don't think He is impressed with our words. He is looking to see what we have in our hearts.

Everybody say Amen!


YayaOrchid said...

Oooh, I love the woodwork pattern in your table!

GlorV1 said...

I remember last year you posted something about the Posada. Very interesting and I love the Corona De Adviento that Gina made and the candles are so nice when lit. I love candles, especially if they have scent. Have a great week Bob. Take care.

bordersaside said...

Bob I would so love to meet your wife some day. She seems like someone I'd get a long well with. I just posted about our advent Calendar. One of our activities is to talk about Hanukkah I also feel its important for Christians it is after all part of our Bible. And aside from that what a great story it is to talk about Gods provision. I actually want to do the Candles also some day when my girls are older. My mom did it for us a few years to help us understand that others celebrate differently but that we can put Christ in everything. This was a great post and I learned a few things from it.

Lady Prism said...


What an exhaustive compelling and informative post this is!

I had Advent on my mind a few days thinking that I let it slip away. When I was a child it was a big thing with all the lighting of the Advent wreath and the prayers.

Now, commercial Christmas has taken over and not much attention is given to the occasion except that it was of course celebrated inside the church. Other than that, it's all trees and Santa and gifts.

Lovely read! Oh, and me' thinks I'll follow the scripture outline you posted. Thank you.

1st Mate said...

Bob - your advent wreath is beautiful. I had forgotten this year to do mine, but maybe I'll just do it now, God won't mind if I'm late.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.