For 2012, Advent begins Sunday, December 2nd. See links at left for recommended Advent readings, or browse our selection below.
The Christian year begins with the birth of a baby. No one knows the exact day Jesus was born, but the date of December 25th was specifically chosen and introduced to Christian believers in order to counter the pagan feast of the "sun god," which was a popular winter solstice festival held in Rome. Instead of trying to coax the sun to return North again, this Christian theological corrective was meant to celebrate the source of true light in our dark world: the Son of God.
It was not until the fourth century that people began to celebrate Christ's birth. In keeping with Old testament feasts and festivals, it was designated a feast day called the Feast of the Nativity. The celebration began with a special Mass in honor of the remembrance of His coming, first called "Christ's Mass," later simply "Christmas." It was Christ being celebrated, not the day!
Later, the four week period before December 25th was declared a sacred and holy season. It was called "Advent," which comes from the Greek through the Latin and means "to come." It was a special time, designed to remind us that the Old testament saints had anxiously awaited the Messiah for centuries, and to provide a period of preparation that would allow time for reflection before the celebration of His birth. Beginning four Sundays prior to Christmas day, our actions and activities should remind us of our need for Jesus.