So…what is Advent? The word comes from the Latin “Adventus Redemptoris”, which means “the coming of the Saviour”. It is a season of preparation and expectation, waiting for the Birth of Christ and for His return. It is a way to focus our minds and hearts on what Christmas is really all about…not Santa and reindeer and snowmen, but the birth of a tiny baby in Bethlehem who changed the entire world forever. I guarantee it, if you will consider adding the celebration of Advent to your Christmas traditions, you will have a Christmas that is unlike any you have ever experienced--full of true joy and peace in the midst of all the craziness that Christmas can bring.
Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas…this year it begins November 30th. We celebrate Advent in our house by using an Advent wreath. The evergreen wreath itself symbolizes eternity (the idea that God is everlasting) and life (a symbol of newness and eternal life). The wreath contains five candles, each one representing something unique. The light of the candles itself symbolizes that Jesus is the light of the world, casting out fear and darkness. The first candle is purple (which represents repentance and longing for Jesus’ birth—it also represents royalty) and is lit on the first Sunday of Advent (11/30). It is called the prophecy candle and represents all of the prophecies in the Old Testament that Jesus fulfilled. The second candle is also purple and is known as the Bethlehem candle, which reminds us that God appeared to us in a humble form, being born in a stable. Bethlehem was located in the territory of one of the least powerful and least important tribes of Israel. This candle is lit on the Second Sunday of Advent. The third candle is rose-colored, and is called the shepherds’ candle. Rose is a symbol of joy and hope that Jesus is coming. The fourth candle is also purple and is called the angel candle. It symbolizes the angels’ peace and the message of good news that they brought, telling of the Saviour’s birth. The fifth candle is white (for purity), and is placed in the center of the wreath. It symbolizes Christ, the heart of Christmas.
The wreath is used by lighting one new candle each Sunday of Advent. The first Sunday (and every night that week), only the prophecy candle is lit. The second Sunday (and each night the second week), both the prophecy and the Bethlehem candles are lit. Each night of the third week (again, starting on Sunday), three candles are lit (prophecy, Bethlehem and shepherd candles). From the fourth Sunday until Christmas Eve, the first four candles are lit (prophecy, Bethlehem, shepherd, and angel candles). On either Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, the final candle (the Jesus candle) is also lit. As more candles are illuminated, we know that the coming of Jesus is getting closer. The anticipation builds as we expectantly watch for our Savior, just like the Jews of long ago. In our family, we usually light the candle(s), read a passage of Scripture (see suggested readings below) or a special Advent devotional book (many are available at your Christian bookstore), sing a carol about Jesus’ birth, and spend some time in prayer. This is a time to be quiet, to be thoughtful, to take a few moments out of our busy lives and focus on the gift of the Saviour, given to us at Christmas. We often dim the lights and make it a very special time of family worship together.
How about giving your family a very special gift for Christmas…make the time to celebrate Advent this year. I promise you, it will be your best Christmas ever.
Suggested Advent Readings:
Sunday, Nov. 30 Isaiah 53; Isaiah 40:1-5
Monday, Dec. 1 Isaiah 52:7-20, Isaiah 40:9-11
Tuesday, Dec. 2 Isaiah 2:1-5
Wednesday, Dec. 3 Isaiah 35:1-10
Thursday, Dec. 4 Jeremiah 33:14-16
Friday, Dec. 5 Psalm 89:1-4
Saturday, Dec. 6 Isaiah 11:1-10
Sunday, Dec. 7 Zechariah 6:12-13
Monday, Dec. 8 Micah 5:2-4
Tuesday, Dec. 9 Malachi 3:1-6
Wednesday, Dec. 10 John 1:1-8
Thursday, Dec. 11 John 1:9-18
Friday, Dec. 12 Mark 1:1-3
Saturday, Dec. 13 Luke 1:5-13
Sunday, Dec. 14 Luke 1:14-17
Monday, Dec. 15 Luke 1:18-25
Tuesday, Dec. 16 Luke 1:39-45
Wednesday, Dec. 17 Luke 1:46-56
Thursday, Dec. 18 Luke 1:57-66
Friday, Dec. 19 Luke 1:67-80
Saturday, Dec. 20 Isaiah 7:10-14
Sunday, Dec. 21 Luke 1:26-35
Monday, Dec. 22 Isaiah 9:2-7
Tuesday, Dec. 23 Matthew 1:18-25
Wednesday, Dec. 24 Luke 2:1-20 (Can now light Jesus candle in center)
Thursday, Dec. 25 Matthew 2:1-2; Luke 2:21-35