The word advent means “coming” or “arrival.” It is a four-week
period in which the church remembers the promises of Jesus’ first
coming, and looks forward to his promise to come again.
The Christian Church has observed some sort of Christmas season
since the 4th century. There was always a period of preparation
before Christmas Day, which varied from between three to seven
weeks. In the 10th century the four week pattern was finally settled
(so we’ve been doing this for a millennium!). European Christians
used greenery and candles to enhance the season, and that practice
has caught on in the United States, and around the world in recent
The Advent wreath itself is a tradition that is centuries old. A
candle is lit during and for each week of advent, until Christmas
Eve, when all five candles are lit. Four of the candles are purple,
which is a penitential color: a symbol of self-examination and
preparation. They remind us that, just as the prophets and John
the Baptist called Israel to “get ready for the Lord”, we need to be
doing the same thing! The white candle, or “Christ candle,” is lit
on Christmas Eve. This reminds us that it is not all “preparation”
– he really came and will really come again.
If your are interested in looking at an Advent guide, check out Grace DC's.
The best part about Christmas is that it doesn't end on December 25th. (I know some of my friends are rolling their eyes because they think I am too obsessed with Christmas). I don't mean the presents and decorations--I mean the fact that Christmas was just the beginning of Christ's ministry and mission on earth. Consider this verse from Hark! The Herald Angels Sing:
"Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings, Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King!"
We sang this hymn in church tonight and I have read this verse repeatedly--particularly the line, "Mild He lays his glory by, Born that man no more may die." As many times as I have heard the Christmas story, this never ceases to amaze me. He became a human willingly--to save me from my sin and secure a place in Heaven for me. That realization is so humbling. I did nothing to deserve this, but I am a free recipient of His grace and eternal life. This line is also a comfort. It reminds me that my relationships here on earth that are based in Christ will never end--they will simply continue in Heaven.
Isaiah 40:5 and Revelation 22:20:
"And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!"