Advent marks the beginning of the church year.
It is a time for reflection in darkness, for renewal of hope and for a movement towards a beginning.
The season of Advent, as it first emerged in the Church in the fourth and fifth centuries, lasted, like Lent, for 40 days. Later tradition developed the Advent we know today, of four Sundays before Christmas Day.
It is a season of expectation and preparation as the Church prepares to celebrate the coming of Christ. Church decorations are simple and sparse, and purple is the traditional colour used. Advent falls at the darkest time of the year, and the natural symbols of darkness and light are powerfully at work throughout Advent and Christmas.
The Advent Wreath...
The Advent wreath is usually a circle of greenery with five candles rising from it. There are four candles on the outside that are purple (sometimes one is pink) and the candle in the middle is white.
The candles are lit in the same order each week so that by the fourth week, the candles have burnt down by different amounts. (The pink candle can be lit on the third Sunday, known as Gaudete or 'Rose Sunday'.)
The custom of Christingles comes from the Moravian church and since the latter part of the twentieth century has become a part of how many churches mark the season (though Christingle services make take place before or after Christmas).
Its success stems from The Children's Society who encourage and resource churches and schools around the country to hold Christingle services.
What the Christingle Means
The lit candle represents Jesus being light in the world
The orange represents the world
The red ribbon represents the blood of Christ
The sweets represent all of God’s creations
All year I look forward to Christmas, to the cooler weather, the time with family, and the opportunity to decorate my home for the holidays. I love looking through bins filled with forgotten treasures and reminiscing about past Christmases.
Every year, I look forward to pulling out my Advent calendar. When I was little, I saw it as an opportunity to get candy on each of the 24 days leading up to Christmas. But now that I’m older, my appreciation for the calendar has grown along with my understanding of its meaning.
What Advent Is
Advent means “the coming of Christ.” For Christians, the four weeks leading up to Dec. 25 are an opportunity to recognize the significance of Jesus’ birth and prepare our hearts and minds for His arrival.
One of the best places to figure out what Advent should look like is the story of Jesus’ birth in Luke 2.
Three Lessons We Can Learn About Advent From the Story of Jesus’ Birth
1. Recognize God’s love.
In Luke 2:10-11, an angel declares to the shepherds, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you: he is the Messiah, the Lord.”
Out of God’s great love for you and me, He sent His Son to earth as a gift for us. Jesus came, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins, and then overcame death. Because of Jesus, we have life, hope, joy, and peace.
2. Prepare room in our lives for Jesus.
For Mary and Joseph, there were no rooms at the inn. They had to seek out a place for Jesus to be born. If we aren’t equally as intentional about making a place for Jesus in our holidays, the next few weeks pass, and Christmas will be gone.
Advent is an opportunity to recognize Jesus’ birth and prepare our hearts and minds for His arrival.
The holidays are hectic! There are parties to plan, gatherings to attend, and presents to buy — all in addition to normal responsibilities. Slowing down and creating time to spend alone with God takes effort. If we want to have time to reflect on all God has done over the last year and prepare for all He wants to do in the future, we have to make it a priority.
3. Celebrate and share the gift of Jesus’ presence in our lives.
When the shepherds heard of Jesus’ arrival, they stopped tending their flocks and hurried to visit Him. As soon as they had seen Him, they began praising God and departed to spread the good news that Israel’s long-awaited Savior was here.
This Christmas, I want to follow their example by celebrating the gift of Jesus with others. As we gather with friends and family that we haven’t seen in a while, let’s share with them how the birth of Jesus 2,000 years ago is still impacting our lives today.