This event is usually held the Wednesday before Advent begins (which are the four Sunday’s leading up to Christmas). Please come back in the fall of 2020 for info on the next Lessons & Carols!
Time & Place
What is Advent?
Advent is a season of waiting in the Christian faith. We anticipate the birth of Christ through scripture, leading to the Christmas season, which begins on Christmas Day (or, for many, on Christmas Eve). We spend time reflecting and praying. We await Christ’s coming and we meditate on what that coming means: we are forgiven and accepted children of God. This tradition is at least 1500 years old. You can read more about Advent here and here.
Why are they called lessons and carols?
Lessons are pieces of scripture that teach or instruct or, in some way, inform how we are to be. Carols are pieces of music that are sacred and relate to a festival (such as Advent or Christmas).
What are the symbols of Advent?
An Advent Wreath is placed on a table on the altar and contains five candles: four around the perimeter (one of which is pink) and the largest, the white Christ candle in the center, which is not lit until Christmas is celebrated. Each week, an additional candle is lit and they each have their own significance. This tradition has roots in Northern Europe, where folks would light extra candles during the darkest times of year.
Advent calendars are a fun family tradition for many that date back to 19th Century Germany. Each day of the calendar is accompanied by a treat and revealing that treat is a fun way for parents to teach their children about the significance of the season. You can find Advent calendars at many stores, or shop online here. But hurry! Advent starts December 1st.
Colors are also very important. Purple and blue are traditional seasonal colors. Purple symbolizes penitence and the royalty of Christ. Blue represents waiting (as a deep blue sky awaits the sun). Blue also represents royalty, as a deep blue dye used to be a very expensive process to make (and thus only accessible to royalty).
How is Christmas celebrated differently in other churches?
In the liturgical tradition (Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, etc), we do not consider the Christmas season to begin until Christmas has arrived. Then the Christmas celebration and season continue through the first half of January. This is the time we sing Christmas carols, and not before. During Advent, we are waiting for Christ’s arrival and so we sing anticipatory hymns.
Other non-liturgical churches (such as Baptists) will vary based on their own personal traditions, often singing Christmas carols in the lead up to Christmas and then ending the season after Christmas day.