Advent begins today. In the Christian world, this is the time to prepare for our celebration of the birth of Christ. We didn’t really honor the weeks of Advent in my church growing up. I’m not sure why – I mean, the candles were there, but there was no real ceremony behind it. In my current church, where the Rocket Scientist and I have worshiped for over 12 years, we celebrate and honor Advent. There are readings and the candles are lit and each family is encouraged to make this a part of their preparations for Christmas. It is wonderful for personal growth and preparing your heart as well.
All of that to say, I didn’t know much about Advent before I arrived at our current church. I thought, there are probably several out there reading this who may be the same way (of the 3 who read this blog!). Hence, my Sunday Seven on some things you might not know about Advent.
The first day of Advent always falls on the Sunday after Thanksgiving (which, this year, is Today) and it is the beginning of the watch for the birth of the Christ. There is an air of expectation, an air of hope, of joy as the days draw closer to the coming of the Christ. This is the symbolism of Advent. (Source: Liberal America)
The Advent wreath, or Advent crown, is a Christian tradition that symbolizes the passage of the four weeks of Advent in the liturgical calendar of the Western church. It is usually a horizontal evergreen wreath with four candles and often, a fifth, white candle in the center. Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent, the lighting of a candle can be accompanied by a Bible reading and prayers. An additional candle is lit during each subsequent week until, by the last Sunday before Christmas, all four candles are lit. Many Advent wreaths include a fifth, Christ candle which is lit at Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. (Source: Wikipedia)
Meaning of the Advent Candles (Source: Bible Basics):
First Sunday of Advent the Candle of Hope or Expectation (purple candle)
Second Sunday of Advent the Candle of Love or in other traditions the Candle of Peace or the Candle Preparation (purple candle)
Third Sunday of Advent the Rose or Pink Candle of Joy
Fourth Sunday of Advent the Candle of Peace or in other traditions the Candle of Love (purple candle)
On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day the central white Christ Candle The white candle reminds us that Jesus is the sinless, spotless Lamb of God, sent to wash away our sins! His birth was for his death; his death was for our birth!
The word 'Advent' is from the Latin 'Adventus,' which means 'coming.' Advent is the beginning of a new liturgical year (in the Western churches), and encompasses the span of time from the fourth Sunday before Christmas, until the Nativity of Our Lord is celebrated. The first Sunday of Advent is the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (which is November 30th), and so it will always fall somewhere between November 27th at the earliest and December 3rd at the latest. (Source: Aquinas & More)
The Jesse Tree is also a popular Advent tradition. A Jesse Tree, named for the father of David, is a tree that is decorated gradually throughout Advent with symbols or pictures of biblical persons associated with the gradual coming of the Messiah, Christ. This includes, among others, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Joseph and Mary. The Jesse Tree tradition provides a wonderful teaching opportunity; it is a perfect way to teach and remind children about the preparatory nature of Advent. (Source: Aquinas & More). The Jesse Tree is named from Isaiah 11:1: "A shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots." It is a vehicle to tell the Story of God in the Old Testament, and to connect the Advent Season with the faithfulness of God across 4,000 years of history.
Advent Calendars: Advent calendars typically don’t follow the period of Advent described above. Instead, they begin on December 1 and mark the 24 days before Christmas. Today, most Advent calendars include paper doors that open to reveal an image, Bible verse, or piece of chocolate. The tradition dates to the mid-19th century, when German Protestants made chalk marks on doors or lit candles to count the days leading up to Christmas. (Source: Mental Floss)
Advent has many symbols. The first and last letters or the Greek alphabet are Alpha and Omega, meaning "the beginning and the end." These are often used together as a symbol for Advent. An angel symbol is a reminder of the angel who visited Mary. The candles used on Advent wreaths have also become a symbol for Advent. The trumpets that will blow when Christ comes to earth again symbolize the hope of Christ's return (1 Thessalonians 4:16). A crown symbolizes Christ as Ruler. John the Baptist prepared people to hear Jesus' message and called him "the Lamb of God," so the lamb carrying the banner of victory over sin and death is also used as an Advent symbol. (Source: TLC Church)
I hope you each have a blessed holiday season - however you spend it.
(Before anyone jumps on here and states their wisdom – please let me say that I am very well aware of the fact that Christ was not born on December 25th. It’s not really about the date – it’s about the heart and the act of honoring and remembering our Savior’s birth leading to His crucifixion and resurrection. I don’t want to debate the semantics of the time of year.)