(Photo courtesy of Rollo Casiple, Pastor of La Vina Community Church in Miami)
Advent is definitely one of my favorite seasons, just behind Lent and Holy Week. I love the candles, the carols, and the sense of mystery as we gather together to read and pray by candlelight that grows brighter each week as another candle is lit. Aaaaahh, Advent!
The word “Advent” means “coming” or “arrival.” The focus of the four weeks before Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus in His First Advent, the Incarnation, and the anticipation of His return in His Second Advent, His Coming again to the earth. Thus, Advent celebrates the revelation of God in Christ whereby all people may be reconciled to God, a process in which we now participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate in the Second Coming.
Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of Christians as we affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power. It calls us to holy living that arises from a profound sense that we live “between the times” and are called to be faithful ambassadors of Christ’s gospel as His return is imminent.
Advent is richly symbolic. The light of the candles reminds us that Jesus is “the light of the world” and that we are also called to “walk in the light, as He is in the light.” The purple of the candles symbolizes the royalty of Christ, the Almighty who “made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” The rose candle reminds us that hope and peace are near, available only through God. The large white candle, the Christ candle, recalls Christ’s holiness, purity – He who was without sin who died for the sins of all. The greenery, symbolizing abundant life, surrounds a circular wreath – never ending, eternal life. The red of the holly berries reminds us of His blood to be shed on the cross for us.
Advent takes place over the four Sundays before Christmas: today, the first Sunday, we light the Prophecy Candle, which reminds us of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah. On the second Sunday we light the Bethlehem Candle, which shows us that Christ was born in the poorest of towns, in utter humiliation. We light the Shepherd Candle on the third Sunday, which recalls the shepherds watching their flocks by night when Christ was born, and also symbolizes Jesus Himself, the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep. On the fourth Sunday we light the Angel candle, which reminds us of the Heavenly Host, proclaiming the Good News in Bethlehem on that night long ago, and also that the angels rejoice when one sinner turns to the Lord. Finally, on Christmas we light the Christ Candle, which reminds us whose Light we are celebrating: the light of Him who rescued us from darkness and death and reconciled us to God Himself.
The primary focus of Advent is Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God, as we wait together to celebrate His birth, death, and glorious resurrection.
My favorite Advent devotional is Watching for the Light, and from it I have jotted down some wonderful quotations, including the one for this week:
"Advent is a time of waiting. Our whole life, however, is Advent -- that is, a time of waiting for the Ultimate."
So enjoy your family or church celebrations of the Advent season. I'm so glad I started the Advent tradition when our kids were fairly small so that it has become an important part of their childhood memories.
A blessed Advent to you and yours!