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Advent at Guildford Cathedral


The season of Advent is a time of preparation and expectation for the coming of Jesus Christ focused in the celebration of Christmas. This carries over into the everyday life of a Christian not just in Advent.

Countdown to Christmas

Advent is best known as the countdown to Christmas. It is often marked by Advent calendars. We have a very special advent calendar for you that is on our social media channels from Sunday 27 November, Advent Sunday.

Delving deeper

The Season of Advent is full of rich themes. The Sunday before Advent is known as ‘Stir Up Sunday’ and is traditionally a day to stir Christmas puddings. It is also a time to be stirred up in our faith and action. Advent is like a rich pudding with different flavours and fruits.

Here are some:

Advent Carols

Advent carols are not to be confused with the much better known Christmas carols! A carol is basically a joyful song that has popular roots, often from outside the church. So there are Advent carols, but they are less well known than the Christmas variety. Many are very beautiful and convey a sense of longing and desire for the coming of God’s kingdom on earth and the birth of Jesus Christ.

The Advent Wreath: Preparation and Expectation; Looking Forward and Looking Back

Each Sunday in Advent we light a candle in the Advent Wreath. At Guildford the four candles are red (in some churches they are purple, sometimes with a pink candle too) and the last one to be lit, at Midnight Mass, is a white candle lit signifying the birth of Christ.

The lighting of the candles each week builds up to remind us that Christ’s light is coming into a dark and cold world. In the Cathedral the Advent Wreath is on the lectern, the place where Bible readings are given. So the candles shine more and more light on the place where the Bible is read which proclaims Jesus ‘the Word made Flesh’ and the ‘Light of the World’.

Each candle is associated with a theme looking back to the foundations of Christian faith and preparations for the coming of Jesus Christ.

At Guildford Cathedral as we light each candle the Deacon will say:

First Sunday of Advent

As we light the Advent candle we reflect on a different aspect of Advent and preparation for the Nativity of Christ. Today we recall the Patriarchs: our ancestors in the faith, in particular Abraham, our father in faith, and King David, of whose line and in whose city Jesus was born.

Second Sunday of Advent

As we light the Advent candle today we recall the Prophets who foretold the coming of the Messiah.

Third Sunday of Advent

As we light the Advent candle we today we recall John the Baptist, whose herald voice prepared the way for Jesus, the Lamb of God.

Fourth Sunday of Advent

As we light the Advent candle today we recall Mary, the Mother of Jesus, whose humility and openness to God’s word made possible the Incarnation.

At Guildford Cathedral whilst the candle is being lit the choir sings the following texts:

Advent Sunday: candle 1 Our ancestors in faith in God

Blessed are you, sovereign Lord, God of our ancestors:

to you be praise and glory for ever. You called the patriarchs to live by the light of faith

and to journey in the hope of your promised fulfillment. May we be obedient to your call

and be ready and watchful to receive your Christ, a lamp to our feet and a light to our path;

for you are our light and our salvation. Blessed be God for ever.

Second Sunday of Advent: candle 2 The prophets

Blessed are you, sovereign Lord, just and true:

to you be praise and glory for ever. Of old you spoke by the mouth of your prophets,

but in our days you speak through your Son, whom you have appointed the heir of all things.

Grant us, your people, to walk in his light, that we may be found ready and watching

when he comes again in glory and judgement; for you are our light and our salvation.

Blessed be God for ever.

Third Sunday of Advent: candle 3 John the Baptist

Blessed are you, sovereign Lord, just and true:

to you be praise and glory for ever. Your prophet John the Baptist was witness to the truth

as a burning and shining light. May we your servants rejoice in his light,

and so be led to witness to him who is the Lord of our coming kingdom,

Jesus our Saviour and King of the ages. Blessed be God for ever.

Fourth Sunday of Advent: candle 4 Mary, the Mother of the Lord

Blessed are you, sovereign Lord, merciful and gentle:

to you be praise and glory for ever. Your light has shone in our darkened world

through the child-bearing of blessed Mary; grant that we who have seen your glory

may daily be renewed in your image and prepared like her for the coming of your Son,

who is the Lord and Saviour of all. Blessed be God for ever.

On Christmas Day: candle 5 The Birth of the Saviour

Blessed are you, sovereign Lord, King of peace:

to you be praise and glory for ever. The new light of your incarnate Word

gives gladness in our sorrow, and a presence in our isolation.

Fill our lives with your light, until they overflow with gladness and praise.

Blessed be God for ever.

The Colour Purple

In the Church purple is a colour that expresses our need to reflect deeply and to turn our lives around; it is penitential. As we prepare for the celebration of Christmas we have a chance to review our lives in the light of the Good News Jesus came to bring.

Purple is also a colour associated with royalty and authority. We proclaim Jesus as Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords and the King born in a manger. So purple anticipates his coming in humble majesty.

The Four Last Things: Facing Mortality

Advent confronts our mortality and asks us to think about the deep purpose of our lives and their place in God’s creation.

The ‘Four Last Things’ – death, judgement, heaven and hell – are a feature of Advent reflection. What is to come is the celebration of Christ’s birth but also the reality of mortality: we will all die.