EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

November 26, 2011

Christians begin Advent season to prepare for Christmas

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.

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