The past two years I have written Advent meditations that I have shared on the Former Salvation Army Officers blog and in several Face Book groups. These devotionals stemmed from the discovery that our local churches do not celebrate Advent and the prompting of the Holy Spirit to celebrate this holy season with others. The first year I focused on the symbolism of the traditional Advent wreath. Last year, the theme that I felt called to address was, “Light of the World, which was incorporated into the significance of the Advent wreath. This year the theme that has been impressed on my mind and in my spirit is, “The Prince of Peace.” As we contemplate and celebrate Advent and Christmas, may we prepare our hearts and our homes during this time of preparation.
Once again, I am including the explanation regarding the history and practice of Advent, as well as a description of the Advent wreath. This will facilitate our study and experience as we move forward to explore the 2016 theme, “The Prince of Peace,” and how that peace may be rooted in our spiritual journey. 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. 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 27th, 2016, 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. Blessings & Peace.
Former Salvation Army Officer