Advent

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As many of you, who follow the blog know, we are currently in the season of Advent.  The word “Advent” means the arrival of an important event, thing, or person.  Advent is a time that we remember that Jesus is coming – he is not here – yet!  In our modern culture – our modern consumeristic culture we forget that Christmas doesn’t start until December 25.  Advent is not typically a celebration but a time of preparation.  The season avails us of the time to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus.  It’s only been recently that I’ve been aware of the dual mode of Advent.  We have often thought of Advent as being a time when we prepare our hearts for the arrival of Jesus – meaning the baby born in a manger in Bethlehem.  Most times our musical worship and preaching reflects the stories of Christmas – which is only one of the aspects of Advent.  The other aspect of Advent is that is a time of preparation of our hearts for the second coming of Jesus – when he will split the eastern sky and return for his followers.  So we prepare our hearts for the celebration of Jesus’ incarnation – his birth as a baby in Bethlehem, but we also prepare our hearts for his second coming – something that we have been warned is coming.

Most of us are not familiar with Advent.  Most churches I know – at least light the Advent candles – a symbolization of the waiting for Jesus to come.  We can watch the progression of the candles – each lit on a different week.  I remember being introduced to Advent sometime during the 80’s.  The Wesleyan Church has its roots in the revivalist movement, meaning that our parent churches – the Wesleyan Methodist Connection, and the Pilgrim Holiness Church, really much into form.  Our services look much like they did in the late 1800’s.  Even in churches that are modern and using all the bells and whistles, they still follow the song service, preaching service, (and perhaps) altar service model that came from that era.  For many of us the only church season’s we knew about were Christmas and Easter.  As a child and teen, I was familiar with Lent, but only as something that my Catholic friends did.  I had never heard of Advent until it was introduced in my church in the 80’s.  I love the tradition that we have dug into.  As a pastor and worshiper, I love digging into the theme of preparation.

downloadAdvent is symbolized by candles – four of them (purple or blue) in an evergreen wreath.  In the middle stands a white candle.  The four candles are lit one week at a time.  The first candle being lit each week…followed by the second candle being lit three times…and so on.  In some traditions, there is also a pink candle – this replaces the third candle. Pink symbolizes joy.  It is called Gaudete Sunday – and is based on Philippians 4:4 “Always be full of join in the Lord.  I say it again – rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon!”

I’ve mentioned that the other candles are purple or blue.  Originally, Advent was a parallel season with Lent.  The church year cycle (Prepare-Celebrate-Grow).  This means that it was penitential in nature – which means it is the expression of regret for one’s wrongdoing or sinning.  Advent prepares us for Christmas.  Lent prepares us for Easter.  Over time the season of Advent became less penitential in nature and more celebratory.  I still prefer it to be a bit more solemn – making the celebration all the more special.  This is the reason that purple is used for both Advent and Lent.  However because many see Advent as less penitential than Lent – the color has morphed to blue – which symbolizes the royalty of the coming King.  Some say the blue also symbolizes the sky on the night of Jesus’ birth.  (We don’t know when he was born – we only know that the angels came to the shepherds at night.)  The center candle of the Advent wreath is the Christ candle. It is lit on Christmas Eve and on Christmas and the Sunday(s) following.  It is white – symbolizing that Jesus is the Light of the World.  The Advent Wreath is surrounded by evergreens.  The evergreen leaves represent the hope of eternal life brought by Jesus Christ. The ring of evergreens are a reminder of God’s infinite love.  It is often thought that the four candles mean hope, peace, joy and love.  But there are actually many themes that can be associated with the candles.  This year we have used come, prepare, joy, and love.  Again I love the symbolism and the way that we can use this season to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord.  

Next week the plan is to write about the songs of Advent.

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