Sunday November 27 is the first Sunday of Advent, a time of preparation for Catholics and Christians.  It is the start of the new liturgical year. Advent is a time of waiting in anticipation for the birth of the Lord, putting up Christmas decorations and preparing for the great reveal on Christmas Day, when gifts will be opened.

The word Advent originates from a Latin word “Adventus” which means “coming” or “arrival.” The weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas are focused on preparing for the coming of Jesus Christ in all ways, from His birth in the past to His Second Coming in the future as the Messiah. We also celebrate Christ’s presence among us today in his Body and Blood.

The Advent Wreath

advent wreath advent at daylesford abbey Our churches and many of our homes have an Advent wreath. Lighting an Advent wreath is a custom that began with Lutherans and Catholics in 16th-century Germany. Typically, the Advent wreath is a circle of branches or garland with four candles arranged on the wreath and often a white candle in the middle.

During the season of Advent, one candle on the wreath is lit each week. The first purple candle is the Prophecy candle or candle of hope.  The second purple candle is the Bethlehem candle or the candle of preparation. The third candle is pink. This is the candle of joy. It lit on the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday. The fourth candle, a purple candle, is the Angel candle or candle of love.  The white candle in the center is the Christ candle.

Preparing for Christ During Advent

If we are waiting and preparing to celebrate anew the birth of Jesus Christ, how are we preparing? Do we see the unhoused person sleeping under a cardboard box, in the rain or freezing snow?  The Norbertine priests at Daylesford Abbey and a group of volunteers see those in need.

Bethesda Project is a nonprofit organization that provides shelter, housing, and supportive services across fifteen locations to adults experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia.

This reminds us of Joseph and Mary searching for a place to give birth and ending up in a cold stable in Bethlehem. At the Bethesda Project, guests and residents experience a safe environment — and most importantly — a home where they can regain their dignity and self-worth and find community.

Volunteers meet people where they are, working to find and care for the abandoned poor and to be a family with those who have none. It seems like the magi met Joseph and Mary where they were too. Should we do anything less?

Ideas for Advent Charity

You can support the Bethesda Project by providing meals, or donating items from their Amazon wish list by clicking here.  Items include boxer briefs, lightweight bed sheet sets, casual winter hooded men’s jackets and even backpacks. These might be different than the gifts waiting to be opened under your Christmas tree, but they are truly gifts that are needed and will be appreciated.

A $50 gift provides a move-in kit for a resident and a$100 gift today provides one week of shelter for guests and residents.


A gift of time is also a cherished gift. “We welcome individuals and groups (of any size!) to volunteer. Whether you come on site or volunteer in other capacities, we are happy to have you!

Examples of tasks include:

  • Cooking and dropping off or serving food – cookies, sandwiches, or a full meal!
  • Hosting a game day or activity/workshop, or a fundraiser or supply drive for needed items
  • Making cards, decorations, or activity kits to boost guests and residents’ morale and help soothe anxiety. This can be a great family activity.  Click here to explore more.
  • Support their administrative functions, utilizing your skills and interests!
  • Although there was no social media in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’s birth, social media can be a vital tool now.

A third-grade girl was coming home from shopping with her mom. She asked if they could stop by the park and pick up trash along the walkway. This was a completely unsolicited request.  But this third grader saw the needs of others and wanted to help and gathered three large bags of trash. A project like this can have a lasting effect on the children in our families as they see that the needs of others are just as important as the latest new tennis shoes or video games.

Are We Ready?

Do our Advent preparations include looking beyond ourselves, asking “What Would Jesus Do?” As we move through the Advent season and light the candles on our Advent wreaths, the first candle can bring hope to others if we but open our eyes to see. The second candle of preparation may indeed shine brighter if our Christmas preparations include reaching out to the needy, the homeless, the ignored and lonely.

In a few weeks, the third Advent candle, the candle of joy lit on Gaudete Sunday, reminds us to bring joy to others and to our families too, as we discover and enact the true meaning of Christmas. The fourth candle, the candle of love, will indeed shine brighter as we share Christ’s love with others. This will draw us closer to the true meaning of Christmas, when we celebrate anew Jesus’s birth, singing “Joy To The World,”