Advent is the beginning of the Church Year. “Advent” means “coming.” This refers not only to Christ’s historical coming but more especially to His present and future coming.
You don’t begin a party before the Guest of Honor arrives; you make preparations. Advent is a time of preparation, not celebration. Preparation involves repentance. There is also a sense of anticipation of something tremendous about to happen. The hymns throughout the season are of Advent and not of Christmas.
An exception to the penitential mood is on the third Sunday of Advent, marking the half-way point in our journey to the Manger. On that day, the candle on the Advent wreath is rose-colored, signifying eager hope and longing for Christ’s coming.
The colors for Advent are blue, which is the color of heavenly anticipation, and purple, which represents repentance. Rose is also used the third week of Advent, as explained above.
Suggestions for Your Commemoration: To build anticipation for the Feast of the Nativity, an Advent Wreath is set up with three purple or blue candles and one rose candle. The first purple/blue candle is lit the first Sunday in Advent, with one additional candle being lit each successive week (the rose candle is lit on the third week of Advent). You may also simple choose to use four candles of the same color.
Another practice is to set up the Stable on the First Sunday, and place only a purple candle in the center of it where the Manger will go; the 2nd Sunday the Ox and Donkey are added; the 3rd some sheep will join them; and the 4th Mary and Joseph are placed on either side of the candle. Then, on Christmas Eve, the candle is replaced by the Manger and the Christ Child.
Ideally, we should refrain from singing Christmas carols or holding Christmas parties during Advent. The Sundays after Christmas or the Epiphany are appropriate times to do those things. Although it is often impractical to do such things because of family obligations (not to mention humming tunes in the mall!), efforts can still be made to maintain the spirit of Advent in our homes by having Advent devotions and making the Advent Wreath a part of your family tradition.