Saturday, December 18, 2010

What is Advent??

The word Advent means "coming" or "arrival" in Latin. It marks the beginning of the Christmas season.

Advent in a nutshell 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. 

It is a time of reflection about the amazing gift that God gave to us in the Person of His Son who came to dwell among us on earth. It is also an opportunity to restore Jesus to His rightful place as the center of our holiday celebrations!  
The prevailing themes of the Advent season are expectation and hope, preparation and peace, joy and sharing, and above all, love. These themes are symbolized by the candles of the Advent wreath.  Each Sunday, marking a new week in Advent, a candle is lit on the wreath (including candles from previous weeks), culminating in the lighting of the pure white candle in the center on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, which represents the pure and sinless Christ. 

All Advent activities and traditions center around the scriptural prophesies surrounding the first and second coming of  the Messiah and how we live in joyful expectation of His coming.

The practice of lighting Advent candles began in Germany by non-Christians. German families put candles surrounded by evergreen branches in their windows on cold winter nights to signify their hope for the coming warmth and light of spring.  Later, German Lutherans kept the tradition alive and gradually the symbolism of the Advent wreath was added. 

Evergreens used in Advent wreaths represent everlasting life (because they do not die during winter, but are green all year around).  The wreath is a symbol of God's unending love.  The candles represent Christ, the light of the world, and their purple or blue color, symbolize royalty, since Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  The pink candle, which is usually lit during the third week of Advent, symbolizes Joy over the quickly approaching advent of 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.

In researching Advent for this post, I was surprised by all of the information and variety of traditions and symbolisms embraced by different churches and individuals down through the ages.  It seems that there are a wide variety of customs and traditions surrounding Advent.  Some of the differences may be attributed to differences in religious beliefs and traditions, while others are due to the different customs and cultures of various countries.  I tried to condense the information and highlight some of the common threads.  For more information about Advent, you might want to start reading here.  You will also find information at your local Christian book store, and included in the package of Advent candles which you purchase.  I have included a link to a set of Advent Candles on Amazon, which is a better price than I have seen at my local Christian book store.

I hope you will pray about adding the observance of Advent to your family's Christmas celebrations.


tlmalcolm said...

It surprises me how many of your readers are unaware of the the Advent season. I guess in a nutshell all the decorating, baking, wrapping etc are symbols of "preparing" for Christ's birth. I also like the concept of celebrating the Christmas season which in the church are the days following Christmas. This way if I don't get something accomplished before hand I don't feel like I missed the boat. So this year I know my Christmas cards are going out during the Christmas Season not the Advent Season:)

busymomof10 said...

I believe that Advent is more commonly observed in the liturgical churches. I know Methodists and Presbyterians who celebrate Advent, but I think it is uncommon for it to be observied in Baptist churches. so, I'm guessing that is why some of my readers are not familiar with it.

tlmalcolm said...

Yes, I believe that is true. I grew up in a Baptist and a Church of Christ church and never recall the use of an advent wreath during advent in those churches but once I started attending a Methodist church and later UCC church it has always been a part of the church service during this part of the year.

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