It's the last week of November, a time when we're past Thanksgiving and anticipating the holiday season. Although for some, the holiday season has begun but for me, it will start on Sunday.

It's the last week of November, a time when we're past Thanksgiving and anticipating the holiday season. Although for some, the holiday season has begun but for me, it will start on Sunday.
This coming Sunday, December 3 is the first Sunday of Advent and in my Catholic faith, it is the start of the liturgical year.
It is also a time of anticipation for Christmas and the joyous celebration of our Savior's birth.  My favorite Advent season hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel is an old one that dates to the 12th century. The original words were in Latin and the melody was added about a century later. Although no one knows the origin of the tune, it's believed to be French.
John Mason Neale translated the original words into English in 1851. His version differs slightly from the song most of us know and the familiar version dates to 1859.There are 7 verses, based on a 7-stanza poem from the 8th century.  The first verse, with refrain, is:
"O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel."
Emmanuel is the Old Testament name for the Messiah, whose coming was foretold in the Book of Isaiah and mentioned in the gospel of Matthew. Advent season is a time of anticipation to celebrate Christ's birth but it's more.
It celebrates the coming of Christ in our lives, with grace and with the Sacrament of Holy Communion, something we share weekly.
And, it also reflects our anticipation as Christians for His second coming at the end of time.
There are four Sundays of Advent and the season ends on Christmas Eve. During this time, as the days grow shorter and we draw closer to Christmas, it's a season of preparation in our hearts, minds, and homes for the way of the Lord. Once, fasting during Advent was more common but there are some who still fast to make the feast on Christmas day more significant.
Other Advent customs include the Advent wreath that features four candles, three purple and one rose or pink in color. Each week of Advent, on Sunday, a candle is lit with the rose candle lit on the third Sunday of Advent.
Some families leave the manger empty in their nativity until Christmas when the Christ child is added,
Others put up a Jesse Tree as well as the conventional Christmas tree. The difference between the two trees is that a Jesse Tree is decorated with items that reflect Christ's human ancestry. Ornaments on a Jesse Tree must relate to the Bible and to Christ's life or ancestry.  Jesse Windows featuring stained glass in churches were the earliest manifestation of a Jesse Tree, telling the background story of the Savior for those who could not read, which was common in the Middle Ages.
Candles are often used in the home as well, with a similar purpose of those used at Hanukkah as well, the triumph of Light over Darkness.
Our celebration of Christmas begins on Christmas Day, also known as the Nativity of the Lord and lasts through Epiphany on January 6. These are the Twelve Days often heard about in songs of the holiday season.
The season of Advent is for me a welcome relief and antidote against the commercialization of Christmas, a time for reflection on the true meaning of the season. It grounds me in my faith during a time of year that become hectic and harried although no one wants that.
As a writer, it's a time for me to spend more time in reflection and in reading things that uplift my heart as I prepare for the coming of Emmanuel, our Savior, on Christmas.

Lee Ann Murphy is a staff writer for the Neosho Daily News and writes a column for the paper.