During this season we celebrate the three-fold coming of the Lord: we remember the events surrounding the birth of Jesus long ago, we celebrate His coming among us today and we look forward to His final coming in glory.  This focus on past, present and future symbolizes our own spiritual journey as we affirm that Christ came into the world more than 2000 years ago, that He is present in the world today and that He will come again in power at the end of time. Advent is celebrated as a time of joy and happiness as we await that future coming of our King.

The colors of Advent are purple and pink. The use of purple during Advent reflects our longing and anticipation for the coming of the Lord. In the four Sundays of Advent, the third Sunday is represented by the color pink and is referred to as Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of rejoicing and joy.

Liturgically, the Glory to God is not sung and music is used in moderation. This is not done as a sign of penance but so that we may anticipate the full joy of Christmas, when they are taken up again. The Alleluia continues to be sung as a clear sign that Advent is a season of expectation instead of one of penance.

The Advent wreath is the best known symbol of the Advent season. It is an evergreen wreath bearing four candles – three purple and one pink; a fifth candle – white – may be placed in the centre of the wreath. On the first Sunday of Advent, the first candle is lit; this lighting may be accompanied by a Bible reading and/or prayers. An additional candle is lit during each subsequent week, with the pink being lit on the third Sunday. By the last Sunday before Christmas, all four candles will be lit. The fifth candle, which is the Christ candle, is lit on Christmas Day. This circular garland of evergreen branches represents eternity and reminds us of God himself, having neither beginning nor end. By the lighting of the candles we are reminded that, although we are preparing for the feast of Christmas in a time of growing darkness, that darkness will not last forever and the light of Christ will come into the world.

The Jesse tree is yet another familiar symbol of Advent. Just what is a Jesse Tree? It is a small, leafless tree decorated with symbols portraying Jesus’ spiritual heritage. It is a kind of family tree which was suggested by the words of the prophet Isaiah: “there shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” The ornaments used remind us of the promise of salvation made by God at the fall of Adam and Eve and also of the ancestors of Jesus from Adam to Our Lady as well as important events in salvation history.

If you are interested in using the season of Advent to help you prepare spiritually for Christmas, here are some websites to check out. .

This website from Dynamic Catholic offers a free daily email program that will help you prepare for Christmas. Each day you will receive either a short inspirational video, practical tips or free Christmas music designed to help you slow down and focus on what’s really important in life.

This website features Bishop Robert Barron offering free daily reflections, delivered via email, throughout the season of Advent.

This is a daily e-mail prayer break offered by Loyola Press, which features praying with a Scripture reading and related points of reflection. The messages also include suggestions for further exploration of Advent themes through additional online articles and prayers.