Recently I was perusing Facebook and I came across a meme that challenged my thoughts about when the Christmas season starts. Like many of us, I assumed that the Christmas season began immediately after Thanksgiving. (Though some stores would have you believe it actually begins after Halloween!)
In some sense it is true, but not on the church calendar.
You see, we have a season of celebration that we go through year after year, but it is not known as the Christmas season. Rather, it is the advent season.
What's the difference?
Adventis an intentional slowing down of our life, to wait in anticipation for Christmas. All too often, we seem to get into a mad rush this time of year, hurrying from the dinner table of Thanksgiving to the neatly wrapped packages hidden under our Christmas trees. It is easy to forget that Christmas has a much deeper meaning for those of us who claim Christ. It is the time where we celebrate his birth.
Advent preps us for Christmas much the same way fasting preps us for a meal. Think about it, have you ever noticed that food tastes better if you have skipped the meal before it? I sure have! A few years ago I partook of a three day fast, only allowing myself liquids for nourishment. When the time to break that fast had come, I had my first bite of solid food; I was a lot more mindful of the flavors and textures.
It was wonderful!
With the advent season, we take a little time to meditate on what Christ's coming into the world brought about besides the forgiveness of sins. Each candle is a focus on these aspects.
Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas day. Each Sunday has a theme: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. So for the next four Sunday’s we are going to be looking at how with the coming of Jesus we have, hope, peace, joy, and love.
Over the course of the next few weeks, it is my goal to showcase each one of these candles and talk about their deeper meaning.
So without further ado, we shall start at the very beginning. (I hear it's a very good place to start)
1st Sunday of Advent, focuses on on how
Christ brings hope.
Face it, we are all mortal. We are born, we live our lives, and we die. It is a fact that has hounded human's since the fall. Yet there is something inside of us, some small part that cannot quite fathom death being the end. Some religions believe that when a person dies, their essence returns to the planet, only to be reborn anew as some other organism. Other's believe in spirits and ghosts, where the dead continue to linger. Still others would say there is no scientific proof that there is life after death, (however there are people who have died and been revived and there accounts are very similar.) But the cold hard facts is that every one of us has an appointment with death, and there is no way around it.
Yet those who follow Christ have a hope that death is not the end. He promised that those who believe in Jesus would not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). We believe that Jesus died and was raised to life to never die again, and one day, He is going to return and raise up his followers, so that they too will never die.
Many many moons ago, when I was still in High School, my Pappaw passed away. I remember going to his viewing and noticing all the hustle and bustle as family gathered together to pay their final respects to this Godly man. One thing that amazed me was that the mood seemed to be less somber and more of a celebration. I was perplexed by that until I realized that we were not just attending a viewing but we were attending a home going party. We knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that Pappaw had gone home to be with Jesus, and that one day we would see him again. For the Christian, death is not a goodbye, its a see you later.
We see this in 1 Corinthians 15: 54 -58
54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
And how about 1 Peter 1:3-63
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
We remember that with the lighting of the first candle, the advent of Jesus is the advent of hope with that we take our first steps toward the arrival of Christ. Next week we will talk about the 2nd candle, the Candle of Peace until then, have a great week and Merry Advent!