Advent – An Overview

imageThanksgiving gave us time to reflect on that for which we are thankful. As we move into the Christmas season, Advent gives us time to anticipate the One for whom we are most grateful. As I thought about writing a post for each Sunday of the Advent season, I wanted to ensure that my facts were correct. I began by asking others about their knowledge of Advent. Many of those that I asked were unfamiliar with the concept. It quickly became clear that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did, either. Knowing these things led me to research the history and practice of Advent. Briefly, I am going to share with you the basics of what I discovered.
Advent is derived from the word adventus, meaning “coming”. For this season, advent represents the coming of Christ. History is uncertain of the exact beginnings. What it has become is an intentional preparing of hearts for the coming of the King. It’s main purpose being to quiet our hearts, minds, and souls to anticipate the birth of and second coming of Jesus.
Many symbols have become connected to the Advent season. The most prevalent of which is the Advent Wreath. Christians use evergreen in the shape of a circle to represent God as everlasting. In the middle of the wreath, sits a white candle named the Christ candle. Surrounding the Christ candle are four more candles. Typically three purple candles, and one pink candle. One candle is lit each Sunday for the four weeks leading up to Christmas Eve. When at last we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Christ candle is lit, symbolizing Christ as the light of the world. The three purple candles represent Hope, Love, and Peace and the pink candle, Joy. The order of how the candles are lit varies between denominations. Frequently, hope is first and joy is third. Regardless of order, the candles are lit as Scripture is read that speaks of the first and second comings of Christ.
Advent calendars, opened each day
starting with Dec. 1st, are a favorite among children and parents. Each day a Scripture is read as the calendar counts down to Christmas Day.
Jesse Trees are used by many to mark the passing of each day as well. In this tradition, an ornament is placed on the Jesse tree for each day. Again, these ornaments are accompanied by Scripture. Jesse Trees were named to honor the prophecy that foretold Jesus would come from a branch of Jesse.
Advent is a season built around remembering and longing for the coming of Christ. It offers a way to focus on Jesus and His birth and eventual return. In the midst of all the busy, Advent gives my heart and mind the chance to build up hope, as I anticipate the birth of my Savior.

Hope – Celebrating the First Week of Advent

image.jpegHope is my favorite word. Recently, a student came up to me and said with some confusion in her voice, “You sure have the word hope around a lot.” “I sure do,” I responded with great joy. Having the word Hope around me is very intentional. Two years ago, a situation presented itself that felt hopeless to me. Unwilling to give in to despair, I surrounded myself with the word Hope and the Scriptures that spoke of Hope. Those words helped me focus on what could be, rather than what was currently.
While this specific situation was resolved in a positive way, not all of our prayers are answered the way our hearts desire. Hope tells us that even when our hearts are hurting there is healing. Hope is that feeling, that acknowledgement, that no matter how dark the night, there is light coming in the morning. Hope is that belief that this current circumstance, no matter how disheartening is not the end of the story. Hope is the knowledge that God is still on His throne and He is still working for our good. Hope allows us to keep moving when all the signs are telling us to quit.
As our world continues to suffer tragedy, and horrors are inflicted upon people beyond what anyone should have to endure, Hope shows us that there is still love, and light, and goodness. Love in the form of families who adopt children as their own, families who offer their homes and their hearts to those who will not stay, but need a safe place for a time, and friends who rally around each other to meet basic needs. Light in the form of visitors to the darkest places – jails, treatment centers, abandoned buildings, and hospitals. Goodness in the form of students standing up for their peers when a bully just won’t stop, food given away to those who are hungry, words spoken that touch the heart of the broken. Hope tells us that someday, there will be no more death, and no more tears. Hope whispers that because He has overcome, we are over comers.
As Christians, it is our responsibility to share this Hope that we have, that we cling to when all else fails. This Hope demands that we become bearers of love, and light, and goodness. When we spend time focusing on the Hope of eternity, the Hope that Jesus has overcome all evil, we become able to give that Hope away to others.
On this Sunday, as you reflect on the Hope that you have, consider how you will be able to share that Hope with others? By share, I don’t mean tell, I mean show. Our words are far more meaningful when our actions prove we mean them.
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21:4