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Churches begin countdown to Christmas
Advent celebrations start Sunday as congregations begin monthlong observance of Christs birth
The Advent calendar counting down the days until Christmas is one of the traditions of the seasonal celebration marking the birth of Christ.

More on Advent

The lectionary readings for the first Sunday of Advent are Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14 and Matthew 24:37-44.

Advent Conspiracy

Highlands United Methodist Church

This weekend marks the first Sunday of Advent at many area churches.

At many churches, one purple candle will be lit and the season of Advent will begin as Christians begin counting down to the anniversary of Christ's birth on Christmas Day.

Some churches, such as Catholic and Lutheran congregations, are more traditional in the way they observe the Advent season. They read scriptures plotted out yearly by the lectionary.

Other churches create their own way to mark the season. For example, The Highlands United Methodist Church will celebrate the season but will follow teachings from "The Advent Conspiracy."

"The struggle is it's really hard to talk about the second coming of Jesus in the consumeristic culture we live in that says ‘Christmas is already here,'" said The Rev. Jeff Coleman, head pastor at The Highlands. "We're doing a series called the Advent Conspiracy, which isn't anything we created. It's about 4 or 5 years old and was created by pastors ...

The whole premise behind ‘The Advent Conspiracy' is that we still believe Christmas can make a difference if we'll do four things: if you worship fully, if we'll spend less, if we'll give more and love all people."

Either way, Advent is a time of year for Christian church to spiritually prepare for Christ's birth.
Advent, means "coming" in Latin, and is the beginning of the Christian church year.

According to, website for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, "Advent begins the church year because the church year begins where Jesus' earthly life began."

Also, each week revolves around a theme, whether using lectionary verses or scripture chosen by the pastor.

The first week of Advent usually is dedicated to teaching about the second coming of Christ. The second week focuses on John the Baptist as a possible theme, and the third and fourth weeks discuss the birth of the Christ child, Coleman said.

Following Advent in the church calendar is Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost.

The traditional use of Advent candles originated in eastern Germany. It usually consists of three purple candles and one pink candle, the Lutheran website said.

The purple candles matched the purple paraments on the altar. The pink candle, the third to be lit on Gaudete Sunday, third Sunday of Advent, means "rejoice," the website explained.

In modern times, the Advent candles go with certain themes throughout the season like hope, love and other Christian principles, Coleman said.

Coleman added that the best way to make the Christmas season more meaningful is to just slow down.

"Every year we walk into the Christmas season, the whole Black Friday sales and so on, and you hit it head on and full speed, and about halfway through you are tired and worn out," he said. "Every year we say this, but what if we were to approach the four weeks prior to Christmas a little more spiritually? Just saying, ‘this year I'm going to move a little slower, this year I will be more deliberate with my relationship with God or family, I'm going to reconnect?'"