Tomorrow is the start of Advent, the season of the church year when Christians prepare themselves for Christ's birth.
The Rev. Richard Knight, pastor of Trinitarian Congregational Church in North Andover, likens the expectation and preparation as if he was going to meet a celebrity or royalty.
"I just won't walk into a meeting. I'd need to prepare myself, think about what I would I say, and how I would conduct myself. Meeting the savior at Christmas, also requires time for preparation," Knight said.
During the next four weeks, Christians participate in book discussions, reflection, inspirational music, pageants and retreat.
In addition to preparing themselves spiritually, church members host "Hanging of the Greens," a time when they decorate the church with wreaths, swags and garland, putting up the Christmas tree, candles and Advent giving tree, as members of Atkinson, N.H. Congregational and First Presbyterian Church in Haverhill will be doing today.
Advent is full of symbolism.
The altar cloth and drapes as well as the minister's robes are purple, the same color the church uses during Lent.
"Purple means rejoice and repentance. John the Baptist called people to repent and turn to God and that's what we do at Advent, have our hearts return to God as we celebrate the arrival of Christ," Knight said.
Advent programs at local churches:
Christ Church, 25 Central St., Andover: Service of lessons and carols will be sung by the parish choir, Schola and St. Cecilia Choristers, tomorrow at 5 p.m. "Waiting for the Light" is the theme of a quiet day Dec. 2, from 9 a.m. to noon. Rev. Jeff Gill leads reflections. Soup and bread luncheon follows.
First Presbyterian, 346 Broadway, Haverhill: Tomorrow is "Christmas Bring a Friend" event. After the 10:30 a.m. worship service, the Rev. Susan Gleason tells the Christmas story and teaches participants about Advent. Families will make an Advent wreath to take home.
Londonderry United Methodist, 258 Mammoth Road, Londonderry, N.H.: Advent study on "The Journey" by Adam Hamilton. Books are $12.
St. Augustine, 43 Essex St., Andover: A four-week Advent scripture study based on the gospel readings of the season starts Wednesday. It features commentaries from theologians and saints. The program also incorporates Lectio Divina, an ancient way of praying the scriptures. Cost is $15. To register, call 978-475-0050, ext. 33.
St. James, Winter Street, Haverhill: Sung evening prayers Sundays during Advent after the 5 p.m. Mass.
St. Joseph Church of Sts. Mary and Joseph Parish, 40 Main St., Salem, N.H.: The parish's Ensemble choir presents lessons and carol service Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. It features nine readings from Genesis, the prophetic books and the gospels and intertwined with Christmas carols or hymns.
St. Mark the Evangelist, 1 South Road, Londonderry, N.H.: Bible study on the infancy narratives begins Monday through Dec. 19 7:30 to 9 p.m. Cost is $15 per person and includes a Bible commentary and study guide. To register, call the parish office.
St. Matthew, 2 Searles Road, Windham, N.H.: Advent penance service is Dec. 11 at 2 p.m. Lessons and carols concert Dec. 18 at 4 p.m.
St. Michael, 196 Main St., North Andover: "A Night in Bethlehem" Dec. 9 and 10 from 5 to 9:30 p.m.
St. Patrick, 12 Main St., Pelham: Sister Claire leads an introduction to Lectio Divina praying with scripture for Advent, Nov. 28, Dec. 4, 12 and 19 at 6 p.m. The creche or nativity scene will be blessed Nov. 29 at 6:30 p.m.
St. Thomas Aquinas, 26 Crystal Ave., Derry, N.H.: The five feasts of the Child Jesus will be explored Dec. 5 and 12 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Participants will discover what they are, what role Mary plays in them. The Reverends Bruce Czapla, Chris Gaffrey and Roger Croteau will be available for the sacrament of reconciliation Dec. 13 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Trinitarian Church, 72 Elm St., North Andover: Children will make Advent wreaths tomorrow during the 10 am. service. Advent devotional calendars will also be available. The Rev. Richard Knight will look at Joseph and Mary and what the Bible teaches about them and what influence they have on Jesus. A movie on Christmas by Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life," will be shown on Wednesdays.
West Parish, 129 Reservation Road, Andover: Advent workshop and supper will be held Dec. 4 from 3 to 6:30 p.m. There will be holiday crafts, wreath making, music and refreshments. Caroling follows and a spaghetti supper.
Tim Janis to perform at Presentation of Mary
METHUEN — Award winning composer Tim Janis is performing "The American Christmas Carol" Dec. 8. at 7 p.m. at the Dupre Center on the campus of Presentation of Mary Academy, 209 Lawrence St.
Janis and his musicians perform the program annually at Carnegie Hall and it has also been featured on PBS stations, narrated by James Earl Jones.
Tickets are $10 and are available at Presentation of Mary Academy, on-line at www.pmamethuen.org, by calling 978-682-9391 x 100 or at the door the night of the concert.
A capella groups welcomes Hanukkah
ANDOVER — A "Gleeful" afternoon of a cappella artists highlights the First Light celebration Dec. 11 at 2:30pm. at Temple Emanuel, 7 Haggetts Pond Road.
This year, Hanukkah begins at sunset on Dec. 20 and lasts for eight days and commemorates the rededication of the temple of Jerusalem in 165 B.C. The holy days are also known as the festival of lights because there was only enough oil to light the menorah for one day, but it lasted for eight days.
Each year, Jews light candles in the menorahs to remember the miracle.
The concert features Redline, Shir Appeal and ShenaniGanns, who will perform Israeli and English pop, soul, rock, and traditional Jewish songs.
In addition to music, the event includes candle lighting, a complimentary Latke Bar and Hanukkah treats.
Cost is $18 adult; $9 seniors over 70; $9 children over 5; children 5 and under free. Family Plan maximum $40 (children 12 and under only).
Tickets can be purchased online at www.mvjf.org or by calling 978-688-0466.
First Light is sponsored by the Merrimack Valley Jewish Federation and other local Jewish organizations and congregations.
All Saints, 120 Bellevue Ave., Haverhill: The parish hosts "God of this City" tour Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m. Event includes live band, adoration and talk by the Rev. John Capuci, retreat director and author of "Opening the Gates of Prase."
Atkinson Congregational, 101 Main St., Atkinson: Cathy Dionne teaches "What We Sing/What We Believe," a class on the theology of hymns on the fourth Sunday of the month through November and from January through March, 9 to 9:45 a.m.
Congregation Beth Israel, 501 S. Main St., Andover: The synagogue is hosting several adult education classes including "Subversive Sequels in the Bible," Sunday from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Dec. 4 and 11, Jan. 8, Jan. 22 Feb. 12, March 4, March 25, April 1 and 29 and May 13. A reading and discussion group on recent Jewish fiction 11 a.m. to noon on Dec. 11, Jan. 22, Feb. 12, March 25, April 29 and May 13. Making shabbat a part of our lives, Dec. 17, Jan. 21, Feb. 18, March 17, April 21, May 19 and June 16.
First Congregational, 7 Andover St., Georgetown: Candidates Weekend festivities kicks off with a dinner and fellowship, Dec. 3 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Reservations needed. On Dec. 4 during the 10:30 a.m. worship service, the church introduces its candidate minister, the Rev. Lorraine Edwards, who has been recommended by the church search committee.
Groveland Congregational, 7 King St., Groveland: Ecumenical "Taize" meditation service is tomorrow at 7 p.m.
Londonderry United Methodist, 258 Mammoth Road, Londonderry, N.H.: The church is hosting a Blue Christmas service Dec. 14 at 7 p.m.
Merrimack College, 315 Turnpike St., North Andover: The Blue Window Worship Band performs "Not Your Typical Silent Night" variety show, Dec. 18 at 4 p.m. at The Rogers Center for the Arts.
St. Anne, 26 Emerson Ave., Hampstead, N.H.: Deacon Bill Mullen leads a video series and discussion on the lives of Saints Peter and Paul, Tuesdays 10 to 11:45 a.m. and Wednesdays, 7 to 8:45 p.m.
St. Augustine, 43 Essex St., Andover: Andreas Widmer leads a morning of reflection Dec. 3 beginning with Mass at 8 a.m. He is co-founder of Seven Fund, a philanthropic organization run by entrepreneurs who invest in research, books, films and Web sites to find entrepreneurial solutions to poverty. Dr. Scott Hahn leads three talks on "Signs of Life," "Letter and Spirit," and "The Hour is Coming," Jan. 14, 2012. Doors open at 9 a.m., talks begin at 10 a.m., ends at 2:30 p.m. Cost is $15 and registration is required.
St. John the Baptist, 110 Lincoln Ave., Haverhill: The Rev. John Walsh leads course on the autobiography of St. Therese of Liseux, Dec. 6 and every Tuesday through Jan. 21 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 7 and every Wednesday through Feb. 1 at 9:45 a.m.
St. Joseph Church of Sts. Mary and Joseph Parish, 40 Main St., Salem, N.H.: The 45-member Interfaith choir performs "Rejoice with Exceeding Great Joy," Dec. 3. The choir has been together for 45 years and is made up of members from 17 churches. Free, but donations accepted.
St. Monica, 212 Lawrence St., Methuen: Extraordinary form of the Latin Mass is every Wednesday at 7 p.m. The church is honoring veterans on the eve of the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, Dec. 6. Veterans will receive patriotic rosaries.
St. Patrick, 114 Center St., Groveland: Rosary for peace group meets Thursday at 7 p.m.
St. Patrick, 12 Main St., Pelham: Bible study on the Gospel of Mark is Wednesdays through March from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Cost is $14.
St. Thomas Aquinas, 26 Crystal Ave., Derry, N.H.: A video presentation on the new changes in the Mass will be shown Dec. 4 after the 8 and 10:30 a.m. Mass. Questions follow.
South Church, 41 Central St., Andover: Book study on "Seizing the Moments: Making the Most of Life's Opportunities," Wednesdays through Jan. 25 from 4:30 to 6 p.m.
Trinity Episcopal, 26 White St., Haverhill: Christian formation class is reading the Book of Acts Thursdays at 6:30 p.m.
Universalist Unitarian, 15 Kenoza Ave., Haverhill: New Moon Coffeehouse presenting a concert featuring music from Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and the Winter Solstice, Dec. 4 at 2 p.m. Performers include Kim & Reggie Harris whose music ranges from folk and gospel legacy with a solid background in classical, rock, jazz and pop music, and Magpie, a duo made up of Terry Leonino and Greg Artzner have been performing for over 35 years.
West Parish, 129 Reservation Road, Andover: Treble chorus of New England Schola choir performs "A Winter Mosaic" of holiday music Dec. 11 during the 10 a.m. service.