As we are coming to the ‘arrival’ (Adventus) of the festive season with full force, it is so easy to forget what Christmas is about in our busyness, restlessness and buying madness. However, this year, I am going to try something different . I am feeling challenged to understand what Advent means and truly enter into it’s mystery. I must admit, not having come from a traditional liturgy background, I haven’t really engaged with the whole lighting of candles and the advent Sunday countdown before. However, there is something to be said about the importance of this in the church calendar.
This weekend, I am planning on doing a session for young people in a local church. We will be making Advent Wreath’ s in preparation for the first Advent Sunday . The Wreath represents the eternity and endless love of God and that there is no Alpha or Omega (circular). The evergreen represent growth that is ready to be sprouted through the power of the Holy Spirit. The colours are of interest too . Advent has a double meaning, it symbolises the birth of Jesus, but also the expectation of the Second coming of Jesus. Remember as a child that period of waiting for Father Christmas to come and deliver your presents; it was a special feeling. As adults, we must admit, even we feel some sort of excitement as the day approaches (well some of us!). This season is surprisingly similar to lent, in that there is an expectation of fasting, and lament in this season too (purple) . I am so so challenged by this, as I am used to indulging in unscrupulous amounts of chocolate and cake in this season!
The four candles represent each week leading up to Jesus’ birth and the wreath represents an intertwining of both stories. The first colour is that of royalty . The first Candle represents the hope or Prophecy Candle as made clear in Isaiah, ‘‘The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.’ This is a serious time of reflection, thoughtfulness and forgiveness as you draw closer to God through prayer. If you knew Jesus was to return soon, you would be preparing your heart and mind for his arrival and make sure your home was in good order!
The Second is the Candle of Bethlehem. A promise was made that Jesus would be born in a stable in Bethlehem , ‘A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation.‘ – Luke 3:4-6
The third candle is pink and represents the Joy of the good news of the Saviour being born. It is typically called The Shepherd’s Candle. ‘And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord’. (Luke 2:8–11, NIV)
The fourth candle is the sign of peace. ‘Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’ (Luke 2:13–14, NIV)
Finally, the fifth candle is lit on Christmas Eve to represent Jesus the light of the world. White represents complete purity, like that of a lamb. The lamb was sacrificed for all sin. Behold the lamb of God will come again one day (1 John 29) also. This Christmas day incorporates past, present and future hope for all eternity.
I am hoping to draw closer to God this season in the quietness of my soul everyday in my daily readings with him . I am going to use Tom Wright’s Advent book, which has a great array of readings and reflections to delve into. I am hoping this will keep me focused up to Christmas Day. I particularly feel, that this year, engaging more fully with God will make a difference to how non- believers will respond to the real meaning of Christmas and also help evaluate our own hearts. Also, to fully allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us and experience a special part of the peace that passes all understanding in 2017.