A Christian liturgical season, Advent is the period of preparation for both Christmas and the Second Coming of Christ. It extends over the four Sundays preceding Christmas. Festivities are discouraged, and the solemn character of the period is demonstrated by the use of purple vestments. Fasting was formerly prescribed. The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of the church year.
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Advent (adventus, coming, arrival) is the season of the ecclesiastical year when the church prepares to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ (Christmas) and engages in self-examination in expectation of his second coming in glory to judge the living and the dead. The collects and Scripture readings embrace these two themes. It begins in the West on the Sunday nearest to St. Andrew's Day (Nov. 30) and always includes four Sundays. However, in the East the period is longer, beginning earlier in November. During the Middle Ages and earlier the period was marked by discipline and fasting (based on "watch and pray"), but in modern times this emphasis has not been prominent.
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)
A. A. Arthur, The Evolution of the Christian Year.
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