Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Advent Basics

This is taken from our church bulletin. It's something that we're starting to appreciate more and more as a Christian church. Hope you enoy this . . .

Advent: arrival

Advent is the preparation season for Christmas, just as Lent is the season of preparation for Easter. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, of God becoming human in the person of Jesus Christ to rescue, redeem, and restore fallen humanity. Unlike Easter, whose date changes every year, Christmas is always celebrated on December 25th. The preparation season is Advent, and it is four weeks--or at least four Sundays in length.

This year, the First Sunday of Advent is (was) November 26th. To calculate the beginning of Advent, start at Christmas (December 25th), count back four Sundays (December 24th, December 17th, December 10th, December 8th). This year is the shortest Advent season with Christmas falling on a Monday, making the season 22 days. The longest Advent seasons, like in 2005, are when Christmas falls on a Sunday, making the season 28 days long.

What does it all mean? The premier symbol during Advent is the Advent wreath. It is round, with greenery, and four candles (three purple and one pink). The circle symbolizes God's love, which has no beginning or ending. The greenery, evergreen, is for hope and eternity. The candles represent the four weeks of Advent. The flame is a symbol of the One who is called "the light of the world." We who follow Him "will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). As we move closer to the day when we'll meet Him--Jesus, there is greater and greater brightness.

Putting into Practice. One candle is lit for each of the Sundays of Advent and, if you desire, a fifth for Christmas Day. On the first Sunday--Hope, only one candle will be lit, then two in this order . . . purple-pink-purple. The third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete Sunday (Latin for 'joy or 'rejoice'), "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Philippians 4:4). The pink candle is traditionally lit to symbolize God's joy. All the candles are lit for the fourth Sunday which symbolizes God's enduring Love.

For a particular week--for example, week 1, the theme being hope--you could light the candle prior to a particular meal, read a passage of Scripture and pray before the meal reflecting on the theme for that week--week one being the theme of God's hope. Readings from Isaiah, the prophets, and passages concerning John the Baptist, as Christ's heral, play a large part in Advent scripture readings as Christmas approaches.

Making Room for Him. While the theme of Lent is penitential (repentance, sorrow) the themes of Advent are waiting and especially Hope. We are awaiting the birth and coming of the Messiah. We are making room for Him in our lives and preparing to receive Christ into the world and into our hearts. It is also a time of waiting and preparation for Christ's second coming when He will set all things right and, of course, a celebration of His first coming, commemorating His arrival in Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago. This hope is not just a positive outlook on life or wishful thinking. It is belief grounded in the knowledge of God, God's power, and God's goodness, that God is true to His promise to always be with us and only will our good.

Cautionary Note: There is no need to leave the candles lit throughout the day/season. Please take care to extinguish them at the close of your meal, devotions or when leaving your home.

1 comment:

L.L. Barkat said...

I've always loved that symbol of light. I like the candle, too... reminds me of what was spoken through Isaiah... "a bruised reed he will not break; a smoldering wick he will not snuff out." No, instead, he lights it with his great presence.