The season of Advent provides a great opportunity to stop and pause, to wait with joyful anticipation for Christmas. While the rest of the world may be singing Christmas carols and decorating trees, the church patiently waits for the coming of Christ. During this time, the altar guild and church office have a special opportunity to help reinforce the message of Advent through the paraments, bulletins, and other adornments that are used in the church sanctuary.
Paraments & Symbols
As we discussed in our post “Preparing for the First Sunday in Advent,” the parament color changes to blue or violet during the season of Advent. Perhaps consider placing a quick explanation of this color change in your weekly bulletin to help your parishioners understand the importance of this change. It may also be helpful to provide an image of your church’s parament symbols with an explanation of what each symbol represents.
Advent Wreath & Candles
The Advent wreath may be perhaps the most recognizable addition to the church sanctuary during Advent. Ideally, the color of the candles in the wreath should match the color of the paraments (either blue or violet).
Every church may have its own traditions and practices regarding the lighting of the Advent wreath. Before Advent services have begun, be sure to check in with your acolytes to keep them in the know about how to light the Advent wreath. It may also be helpful to leave a small note or diagram in their preparation area. On the note, be sure to include the following information:
- When in the service the wreath’s candles should be lit (be sure to note whether it is at the same time as their usual candle-lighting duties)
- How many candles should be lit
- What order to light the candles
- When to extinguish the candles on the wreath
Many churches like to have special bulletin covers for Sunday or midweek services during Advent. CPH offers two series of bulletin covers for this season. Take a look at the examples below to see which ones best fit your church’s needs and schedule.
Hope, Peace, Joy, Love, Christ Series
Tree & Greenery
Deciding when it is most appropriate to put up the Christmas tree can be a tough decision for some churches. The answer to that question is partially dependent on your congregation’s traditions and your altar guild’s availability. The Altar Guild Manual recommends that the tree not go up until after the Fourth Sunday in Advent. However, on years like this when the Fourth Sunday in Advent and Christmas Eve fall on the same day, it may be more practical to put the tree up in the preceding week. If you do put up your tree before Christmas Eve, consider waiting until Christmas to complete the decorations and turn on the lights. This can be a visual reminder of the Advent theme of waiting while adding to the surprise and brilliance of your celebrations on Christmas.
Free Advent and Christmas Planning Checklist
Don’t forget a single wreath candle, service announcement, or Christmas program detail.