Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Joy of Learning About Advent Season

It’s never too late to learn, is it? And this Christmas season, My First Wife and I have learned something about Advent Season.

Because of our upbringing, we never had much to do with Advent. We were touched last year, though, by the new Advent addition in our church service. So, this year, for the first time in our marriage, we set up an Advent Wreath. And we’re glad we did.

We put together this colorful little Advent display in our living room. We found Scripture verses and prayers that are part of the candle-lighting and solemnity of the moment. My First Wife and I hold hands all the while. It’s quite nice. Try it.

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If you’re not familiar with Advent or don't know what it means, My First Wife and I offer this. (We just learned ourselves.)

There are several variations,* but for the most part the symbolism goes like this. The wreath, a circle, represents eternal life. The flame of each candle represents Jesus, the Light of the World. The first violet candle signifies expectation: the Hope of Jesus’ arrival. The second violet candle reminds Christians of the gifts that Jesus brought to earth: Love and Redemption. The pink candle represents our Joy because we know that Jesus’ birth is imminent—as is His Coming Again. The last violet candle represents the Gospel of Peace that the angels announced to the shepherds. The large white candle represents Jesus Christ, born King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

The Advent Season has no Biblical source or basis. It was probably established by early Christians (c. 400 AD) in anticipation of Jesus’ return. It has since become the four weeks that anticipate the Day of Jesus’ birth, Christmas.

And this is interesting: Advent wreaths were first displayed in homes, not in churches. How ‘bout that? Protestant tradition says that the Advent wreath and candles were first introduced in a Hamburg, Germany orphanage about 1830 or so. Twenty-four small red candles were lit during evening vespers to let the children know how many days till Christmas. Four large white candles were lit on the four Sundays before Christmas Day. (So 28 days) Many German homes adopted the idea and in only a few years, Christian churches also took up the practice. Few American homes have an Advent Wreath, but more and more churches are including Advent candles in their services during this month. The Roman Catholics are almost convinced that Advent is as inspired as Scripture. It’s isn’t.

The colors and number of candles have changed over the years. Today, people use three violet or purple candles and one pink candle that are lit on each of the four Sundays leading to Christmas. Some denominations use four blue candles. Many wreaths also include a dominant, central white candle, called the Christ candle. It is lit (after dark) on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day. It is not part of the original Advent wreath, but during the last half century has taken a significant place there.

As a praise and worship moment in our home, Advent has already added a lot to our Christmas season. We hope this gives you a new dimension to consider and hope you learned something here today.

*I repeat: we’re just learning about Advent. If it’s different for you, that’s okay. Apparently, there are no hard and fast rules about it.

Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas.

The Top Ten Countdown continues Tuesday.

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