As a kid I grew up in a main line denomination and I still remember some of the liturgical portions of those church services. I also remember that there were seasons marked out on our church calendar. Lent and Advent are two prominent ones I remember. As we approach Christmas this year, let’s talk about the Advent season that we are currently in. I am reminded that Advent candles shine brightly in the midst of darkness, symbolizing and remind us that Jesus came as Light into our dark world.
Advent means ‘coming’ in Latin. It could also mean “arrival”. Advent involves four candles around the wreath. A new candle is lit on each of the four Sundays before Christmas. This is the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, into the world. Christians use the four Sundays (weeks of Advent) leading up to Christmas to prepare and remember the real meaning of Christmas. That being the birth of Christ.
The Candle of Hope – Like the prophets in the Old Testament, we hope for a Messiah to save us from the sin in the world (Isaiah 9:6-7). We anticipate our Saviour’s arrival. This candle assures us we can have hope that God will fulfill the prophecies declared in the Old Testament about Jesus. Hope doesn’t disappoint us (Romans 5:5). We hope Jesus will return soon to this dark and despairing world.
The Candle of Peace – One of the hallmarks of the Christmas story is when the angels appear to the shepherds and proclaim, “Peace on earth,” in Luke 2:14. Jesus brought about peace, in the most unexpected ways, when he arrived. Jesus brings us peace in a number of ways. First, he gives us inner peace. Because of his work on the cross, we have a chance to receive salvation and be indwelled by the Holy Spirit (John 14:27). Not only do we have the peace that comes from our assurance of salvation, but we also have the peace of mind knowing God will heal this broken world and will come again.
Second, we have peace with others. We put aside our differences (Galatians 3:28), especially with other believers, because we belong to the same family. We have the same purpose: to let others know about the peace of Christ. The Hebrew word for peace: Shalom, goes far beyond not fighting with others or peace as we know it. Shalom is how things are meant to be: a slice of heaven.
The Candle of Joy – this candle reflects the joy that comes through Jesus’ arrival, and through the salvation he has gifted us. Christians may wonder why the church decided to make this particular candle a different color than the others. This week celebrates the joy of Christ’s coming to earth. It is also known as the Shepherd Candle to highlight the joy the shepherds experienced when they received the good news about Christ’s birth (Luke 2:8-20). During the middle of the night, the darkest time, the shepherds encountered angels.
The Candle of Love – We know that virtues such as love, hope, peace, joy, and faith are important in the Christmas story as well as in our daily walk with Christ. Love plays a vital role in the Christmas story. Because of Joseph’s love for Mary, he didn’t stone her when he found out she was pregnant with what he thought was a child out of wedlock with another man (Matthew 1:18-19). Mary has a natural motherly love for Jesus, and ultimately, we see God’s love for everyone by sending his son for us (John 3:16). Jesus focused on preaching love throughout his ministry.
Two of his greatest commands involve love: Love God, love your neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). Love is the greatest of all the virtues on the Advent wreath and encompasses Jesus’ entire purpose for being on earth (1 Corinthians 13:13).
The Christ Candle – In addition to the love candle, we light the white candle at the center of the wreath on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The white tends to symbolize Christ’s purity, showing Christ’s righteousness and blamelessness. The Christ candle represents Christ and the role he plays in the Christmas story. Jesus brought light into the world through his arrival on earth as a baby.
We can’t leave the Advent season without a reminder that the story doesn’t end at Christmas. We know that in Jesus’ life on earth that Christmas leads to Easter, to His death on the cross. Without Easter, Christmas is nothing more than carols, turkey, cookies, pie and a nap.
Have Merry Christmas & see you at Easter.