Advent starts today, and it is that season of joyful yet somber (or sober) preparation for the Nativity of our Lord. It also is a season of muted traditions that seems to be bypassed by many. In the churches the season is marked by purple vestments that hint towards Advent being a traditional season of penance, though a season much different from Lent. It is a season marked by occasional Advent wreaths, and begins the season when Christmas lights and Nativity Scenes or crèches begin to appear. The gospel reading tell us to be vigilant. Anticipation, and warning are mentioned regarding that day which is to come, a day of judgement. Preparation and vigilance are needed. The gospel readings clearly set the tone for the season, they foretell the importance of the day to come. They give testament to the importance of Christmas. But what about today, how do I approach that first candle. What is my vigilance? Am I alert? What is going on around me?
That all comes from more than a few years ago, it is old writing. But still, it is the first week of Advent and what does that mean? Advent is a season of anticipation; we wait and what we wait for is the Christ. The Christ translates the Messiah, and that translates salvation. What we wait for is something after and that implies something before. We wait in Joyful anticipation, and in waiting for some joy there most certainly must be some sorrow that comes before it. To wait for a joy, must imply that there is a sadness to escape. Those ancient people prayed that a Messiah come and deliver them from their suffering. They (those ancient people of Judaea) did not scream for someone to join their party, they cried that they be delivered from their suffering. Advent is a transition; it is a prayer to be delivered from adversity to a promise for something better. It is a prayer to be delivered from something bad to something good. A prayer to be lifted from sin to grace. A prayer for a change. In its essence, advent is a prayer. It is a hope. It is a desire.
With Advents prayers, hopes, and desires one must ask a question or two, or three. What does one pray for, that is rather personal, but the answer should be to be delivered from sin. To be delivered from sin requires that the person acknowledge their sins. Advent has its origins as a penitential season, and that is something most people forget about today. A prayer is a petition, and a petition for a change. Granted none of this is complex theology, it is simple. To await something suggests a vacuum. To await salvation implies bondage, and can any person truly declare that they are free? Might that be the first lesson of the season? To realize our frailties, to catalogue them or confess them with the joyful anticipation that the Messiah might set us free.
That is purple, at least in one of its meanings. The color of Advent. It is the color of Lent and of penance. It is the color of our bruises, trials, and sufferings. It has another meaning , that color purple. It is the ancient color of royalty, the color of a king. It is the color of where we are, and the color of what we hope forth color of heaven, and of earth. The color of where we reside, and what we should desire. Advent is a transition. It marks the beginning of a journey.