I wrote this last year to begin our Advent Season. As we begin a new one this year, I thought it a fitting way to remind us why we do it.
I’m headed back to the ATL bright and early tomorrow morning. After a lot of rest with my family in Indiana, I’m eager to get back and enjoy the WAITING of Advent with all of you.
I’m new to celebrating the Advent season. Growing up “non-denom” (that’s cool kid speak for “non-denominational church”), we celebrated the Christmas season by building a large “Living Christmas Tree” inside the sanctuary, and then forcing the choir, puppeteers, and small children to spend hours of rehearsal and performances on rickety metal stands…praying they would hold another year. (My last year “volunteering” as a puppet master, I got to be on the 2nd highest row – it was a dream come true.)
So suffice to say, we had our own way of welcoming Christmas to town. So being a part of Intown, who celebrates Advent so magnificently, has been like a history lesson for me. But like sitting down and going through old photo albums of when your parents are little and you realize it’s your family before you existed in it, celebrating Advent became a part of my life as if it was always suppose to be there. So in my discovering it’s importance and the way it makes Christmas that much sweeter, I decided it would be great to offer some daily Advent readings to our IDX students and families. I know we are starting a bit late, but it’s better than never.
So if you and your family don’t have a tradition of sitting down and going through Advent, then let this start one.
We talked about Advent this past Sunday in IDX Mornings. The big take away was that Advent means two things: 1) Arriving and 2) Coming. It is a four-week period in which the church remembers the promises of Jesus’ first coming, and looks forward to His promise to come again. Just as John the Baptist told the Jewish people to “prepare” for the Lord’s coming, we need to encourage each other to be ready for His coming again.
The Christian Church has observed a Christmas season since the 4th century. There was always a period of preparation before Christmas Day, which varied from between three to seven weeks. In the 10th century the four-week pattern was finally settled (so we’ve only been doing this for a millennium)! European Christians used greenery and candles to enhance the season, and that practice has caught on in America and around the world in recent years.
The Advent wreath itself is a tradition that is centuries old. A candle is lit during and for each week until Christmas Eve, when all five candles are lit. Three of the candles are purple, which is a penitential color, i.e. a symbol of self-examination and preparation. They remind us that, just as the prophets and John the Baptist called Israel to “get ready for the Lord,” we need to be doing the same thing! The pink candle for the fourth week of Advent signals a transition to the white candle, the “Christ candle,” which is lit on Christmas Eve. This reminds us that it is not all “preparation” – He really came, and will really come again.
Seasons such as Advent/Christmas and Holy Week/Easter are wonderful opportunities to rekindle devotional life, and especially to focus on the quality of family worship. The next blog posts (up until Christmas) will be readings, questions, and thoughts to discuss with your students. We’ll also be posting these on our Facebook page, for those students who have access to it.
Merry Christmas to ALL, and may this Advent season be joyous, happy, restful, and life-giving,