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.