Last year I shared an Advent series that stemmed from my experience that our community churches were not addressing this subject and what I believed to be the leading of the Holy Spirit to do so. This year I have been meditating and praying about Advent and whether or not I should do another series. The Holy Spirit has been prompting me; and so, after much consideration, I will be sharing weekly reflections, including suggested daily Scripture readings to enhance our focus during this holy season of Advent. The theme that has been impressed on my mind and in my spirit is “Light of the World.” I hope and pray that as we contemplate and celebrate this Christmas season together that we will find rich blessings in meaningfully centering our attention on the significance of Advent.
Because some of you may not have been with us last year (2014), I am including the explanation regarding the history and practice of Advent to help clarify the subject, as well as a description of the Advent wreath. Having an understanding of Advent will facilitate our study and experience as we move forward to explore the 2015 theme, “Light of the World” and how that Light influences and directs our Christian walk. While Advent is celebrated for the four Sundays before Christmas, the Advent wreath actually includes 5 candles—one for each of the four Sundays, and a fifth one to be lit at a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service (i.e., “the Christ candle”). As I did last year, I will include some reflections and challenges for a New Year’s post, and will complete the series with a post on Epiphany (January 6th).
What is Advent?
The word Advent comes from the Latin word “adventus”, which means "coming". Advent refers to the coming of Christ, which includes a celebration of Jesus’ birth, His First Coming, and to His Second Coming, for which we still wait. It is unclear when the season of Advent was first celebrated. However, it seems that the practice of observing Advent began in the latter part of the 6th century into the beginning of the 7th century. These conclusions are based on the fact that Pope St. Gregory the Great's sermons included a homily (or sermon) for the second Sunday of Advent (his papacy was from 590-604), and that by the year 650 Spain was also celebrating the season of Advent. (1) Over the years, the focus evolved from one of penitence (similar to the season of Lent) and spiritual preparation to one of spiritual preparation and a celebration of joy. The season of Advent encompasses the four weeks before Christmas, during which time the focus is on preparing for the celebration of His birth and on spiritual renewal.
The Meaning of the Advent Wreath (Five candles)
During Advent one candle on the Advent wreath is lit each Sunday (in churches that celebrate Advent and in many private homes), with the final candle being lit on Christmas Day. Each of these candles symbolizes a characteristic of spiritual preparation for Christ’s birth:
1st Week of Advent: The Prophecy Candle or Candle of Hope (purple) is lit.
2nd Week of Advent: The Bethlehem Candle or The Candle of Preparation (purple) is lit.
3rd Week of Advent: The Shepherd Candle or The Candle of Joy (pink) is lit.
4th Week of Advent: The Angel Candle or The Candle of Love (purple) is lit.
Christmas Day: The Christ Candle (white) is lit.
I look forward to celebrating this season of Advent with my online family, again. Advent begins next Sunday, November 29th, 2015, and the 1st week of Advent reflections will be posted then. Your feedback, questions, suggestions, and so forth, are always appreciated. So do feel free to comment.
Guardians of the Truth