Advent, this powerful liturgical season that we are beginning, invites us to pause in silence to understand a presence. It is an invitation to understand that the individual events of the day are hints that God is giving us, signs of the attention he has for each one of us.
- Benedict XVI, Homily at First Vespers of Advent,
November 28, 2009
Advent resources from USCCB
Advent has a twofold character: as a season to prepare for Christmas when Christ's First Coming to us is remembered; and as a season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ's Second Coming at the end of time. Advent is thus a period for devout and joyful expectation (Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, 39).
The use of the organ and other musical instruments and the decorating of the altar with flowers should be done in a moderate manner, as is consanant with the character of the season, without anticipating the full joy of Christmas (Ceremonial of Bishops, 236).
When a marriage is celebrated during Advent or Lent or other days of penance, the minister of the sacrament should advise the couple to take into consideration the special nature of these liturgical seasons (Rite of Celebrating Marriage, 11).
A communal celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation according to Rite II of the Rite of Penance is one way of assisting the people of God in preparing for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. Such a liturgy might be celebrated during the latter part of Advent, and on a weekday other than Sunday.
If the Advent Wreath is used in church, it should be of sufficient size to be visible to the congregation. It may be suspended from the ceiling or placed on a stand. If it is placed in the sanctuary, it should not interfere with the celebration of the liturgy, not should it obscure the altar, ambo, or presider's chair (Book of Blessings, 1512).
In its present form the custom of displaying figures depicting the birth of Jesus Christ owes its origin to St. Francis of Assisi who made the Christmas creche or manger for Christmas eve of 1223. The blessing of the Christmas manger or nativity scene, according to pastoral circumstances, may take place at the Vigil of Christmas or at another more suitable time.
If the manger is set up in the church, it must not be placed in the sanctuary. A place should be chosen that is suitable for prayer and devotion and is readily accessible by the faithful (Book of Blessings p. 583).