This past Sunday marked the beginning of Advent. There are various traditions that surround the season of Advent and each church will have its own unique way of celebrating this very meaningful aspect of the Christmas season. For those who may not be aware of Advent or of its purpose, here is a little primer.
The word advent means arrival or coming. The celebration of the season of Advent traces its roots back to Lutheran churches in Germany. While Advent is not the celebration of Christmas, it is tied to Christmas in much the same way that Lent is tied to Easter. They are both times of penitent preparation as we approach the celebration of the birth and resurrection of our Lord.
Lent and Advent are very much about humility and thanksgiving. When we consider the grace made available to us through the birth of the Messiah and the sacrificial death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, we should be incredibly humbled by grace and mercy — and thankful, so very thankful, for redemption!
The symbolism of advent is rich and it is good to know the purpose intended for each part of the celebration.
The wreath is in the shape of a circle and represents God's never ending love.
The wreath is made of holly. The evergreen of the holly represents eternal life. The thorns represent the crown of thorns worn by Jesus and the red berries represent His shed blood.
The four candles represent the 400 years of silence that existed between the prophets of the Old Testament and the coming of John the Baptist.
The dark color of three of the candles represents penitent preparation for the coming of Messiah.
The pink candle, sometimes called the candle of joy or the angel’s candle, represents the change in mood from one of penance to one of joyful anticipation. It was the angel that declared, “I bring good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today, in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Good news! I love good news!
The center candle is known as the Christ Child candle. It takes the center position representing the position that Christ is to have in our lives. The white color represents His purity. At our church, it is from the center candle that each of us receives the flame for our own candles on Christmas Eve. This represents the fact that eternal life comes through Jesus Christ and no other. In addition, we pass the flame from this candle to each other, representing the Great Commission that Jesus gave for us to "Go and make disciples of all nations . . ."
Even the flame itself has meaning. Jesus is the "Light of the World". The Scriptures declare that "God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all." Jesus said that we should not hide our light but that we should set it in a high place so that it can light the way for those in darkness, declaring that we are “the light of the world”.
Throughout this holiday season, we will constantly be asking each other "Are you ready for Christmas?" More often than not, we are referring to the flurry of activity that leads up to December 25th — buying and wrapping presents, decorating the tree and home, cleaning the house, hosting family and friends, baking cookies and special treats, finding time to attend all of the Christmas parties and special events — it truly is a most wonderfully crazy time of the year.
For that reason, Advent asks a deeper and far more penetrating question, "Are you ready for Jesus to return?" He is coming again; in fact, He may arrive before we celebrate this next Christmas! In the midst of the celebration, let us each determine to make time for evaluation and deep reflection . . . am I ready for Jesus to come again?
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:1-6
Jesus is coming back — and He is coming soon! Are you ready?