Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent Begins

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. I love this part of the Christmas season. I got so excited yesterday when I set the altar at the Arbor with the Advent wreath and placed all the candles around. Yeppers, Christmas is definitely off and running and once again I plan not to get caught up in the commercial side of the holiday...and I know I will...but for, November 29th....I will hold Christmas in my heart...because today is the true beginning...the first Sunday of Advent. Did you know that the word Advent means "coming" or "arrival." The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history...for me it is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ, and becoming reconciled to God. I love the scripture readings dring Advent because they all reflect the emphasis on the Second Advent, including themes of accountability for faithfulness at His coming, judgment on sin, and the hope of eternal life.
Advent symbolizes for me the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation, as they affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power and it is my own responsibility as a people commissioned to "love the Lord my God with all my heart" and to "love my neighbor as myself." And you know...that is the other thing I love so about this time of year....people seem to love each other a little more and be a little more tolerant and kinder. I just wish it would carry over into the other days of the year....but for one special month of the is evident.

I love the lighting of the Advent wreath at church each Sunday. The special wreath is an increasingly popular symbol of the beginning of the Church year in many churches as well as homes. It is a circular evergreen wreath (real or artificial) with five candles, four around the wreath and one in the center. Since the wreath is symbolic and a vehicle to tell the Christmas story, there are various ways to understand the symbolism. The exact meaning given to the various aspects of the wreath is not as important as the story to which it invites us to listen, and participate. Did you know that the circle of the wreath reminds us of God Himself, His eternity and endless mercy, which has no beginning or end. The green of the wreath speaks of the hope that we have in God, the hope of newness, of renewal, of eternal life. "Candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through the birth of His son. The four outer candles represent the period of waiting during the four Sundays of Advent, which themselves symbolize the four centuries of waiting between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ. The colors of the candles vary with different traditions, but there are usually three purple or blue candles, corresponding to the sanctuary colors of Advent, and one pink or rose candle. One of the purple candles is lighted the first Sunday of Advent, a Scripture is read, a short devotional or reading is given, and a prayer offered. On subsequent Sundays, previous candles are relighted with an additional one lighted. The pink candle is usually lighted on the third Sunday of Advent." The light of the candles itself becomes an important symbol of the season. The light reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world that comes into the darkness of our lives to bring newness, life, and hope. It also reminds us that we are called to be a light to the world as we reflect the light of God's grace to others (Isa 42:6). "The first candle is traditionally the candle of Expectation or Hope (or in some traditions, Prophecy). This draws attention to the anticipation of the coming of a Messiah that weaves its way like a golden thread through Old Testament history. As God’s people were abused by power hungry kings, led astray by self-centered prophets, and lulled into apathy by half-hearted religious leaders, there arose a longing among some for God to raise up a new king who could show them how to be God’s people. They yearned for a return of God’s dynamic presence in their midst." "The remaining three candles of Advent may be associated with different aspects of the Advent story in different churches, or even in different years. Usually they are organized around characters or themes as a way to unfold the story and direct attention to the celebrations and worship in the season. So, the sequence for the remaining three Sundays might be Bethlehem, Shepherds, Angels. Or Love, Joy, Peace. Or John the Baptist, Mary, the Magi. Or the Annunciation, Proclamation, Fulfillment. Whatever sequence is used, the Scripture readings, prayers, lighting of the candles, the participation of worshipers in the service, all are geared to telling the story of redemption through God’s grace in the Incarnation." The third candle, usually for the Third Sunday of Advent, is traditionally Pink or Rose, and symbolizes Joy at the soon Advent of the Christ. It marks a shift from the more solemn tone of the first two Sundays of Advent that focus on Preparation and Hope, to a more joyous atmosphere of anticipation and expectancy. I hope we sing Joy to the World on that Sunday. It is one of my favorite Christmas songs. The center candle is white and is called the Christ Candle. It is traditionally lighted on Christmas Eve or Day. However, since many Protestant churches do not have services on those days, many light it on the Sunday preceding Christmas, with all five candles continuing to be lighted in services through Epiphany (Jan 6). The central location of the Christ Candle reminds us that the incarnation is the heart of the season, giving light to the world. so with that history lesson on Advent, from my house to yours and from my heart to yours I am hoping that your heart is full this time of year...and it carries on through the year. I am planning on having a Christmas heart all year. That is my Resolution for the beginning of my year. Yep...Christmas heart. I want to love like there is no tomorrow, dance in the rain, smile more...and have no regrets. Bless you all this day!


Edie Marie's Attic said...

Hi Karen!

I've always love the Advent Wreath and it's meaning. I think it's such a great way to be reminded of the real meaning of this blessed season.

Thanks for sharing it with us!!

Hugs, Sherry

Mary said...

Beautiful post!