Advent has a twofold character: as a time to prepare for the solemnity of Christmas when the Son of God’s first coming to us is remembered, and as a season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. For these two reasons, the season of Advent is thus a period for devout and joyful expectation.
Advent begins with Evening Prayer I of the Sunday falling on or closest to 30 November and ends before Evening Prayer I of Christmas.
The Sundays of this season are named the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Sundays of Advent. The weekdays from 17 December to 24 December inclusive serve to prepare more directly for the Lord’s birth
Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship, General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, n. 39-42
The First Sunday in Advent marks the beginning of the Church’s Liturgical Calendar. The season of Advent lasts between 21 and 28 days.
The word "advent" comes from the Latin word "adventus", which means "coming" or "arrival". Advent is a time of waiting and preparing for the coming of Jesus. We prepare for the celebration of Christmas, the anniversary of the first coming of Jesus to us. We also prepare for him to come again at our death or at the end of time.
The Sunday readings in Advent reflect these themes of waiting, longing and hope for the coming of Jesus. The readings of the First Sunday of Advent look forward to the Second Coming of Jesus at the end of time. On the Second and Third Sundays the readings are about the role of John the Baptist who came to 'prepare the way of the Lord'. On the Fourth Sunday of Advent the Gospel is about the events which lead up to and follow the birth of Jesus.
The liturgical colour worn of Advent is purple but it is a time of joyful preparation rather than being a penitential season. Purple was once the colour of royalty and it is used in Advent to signify the coming of Christ and his kingdom.
The Advent wreath has four candles to mark the waiting period before Christmas. One additional candle is lit each week, reminding us that Jesus comes to bring light to the world.
The Jesse tree is a branch or small tree which refers to Isaiah 11:1: "A shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots". The decoration of the tree with symbols during Advent records the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, beginning with Adam and Eve.