What is Advent?
The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” The focus of the entire season is:
• the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent.
• the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent.
Advent is much more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history. Advent is a season of preparation. Not only is Advent about preparing to celebrate the first coming of Christ as a baby, but it’s also about preparing for Christ’s second coming as judge. In Advent we are reminded that the Christmas story began thousands of years before the birth of Jesus, with the people of Israel. In Advent we are reminded that the Christmas story is not over; Jesus will return.
Scripture reading for Advent will reflect this emphasis on the Second Advent, including themes of:
• accountability for faithfulness at His coming
• judgment on sin
• the hope of eternal life
Focusing on both the past and future, Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a body of believers
• as they affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today.
• that He will come again in power.
Acknowledging both provides a basis for Kingdom living, holy living which comes from a profound sense that we live “between the times” and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s people. So, as the church celebrates the birth of Christ, and anticipates His soon coming return, it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
When is Advent?
Advent lasts for about four weeks. It begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve, thus there is some variation in its length
Why light candles?
The light of the candles itself becomes an important symbol of the season. The light reminds us that
• Jesus is the light of the world that comes into the darkness of our lives to bring newness, life, and hope.
• We are called to be a light to the world as we reflect the light of God’s grace to others (Isa 42:6).
The progression in the lighting of the candles symbolizes the various aspects of our waiting experience. As the candles are lit over the four week period, it also symbolizes the darkness of fear and hopelessness receding and the shadows of sin falling away as more and more light is shed into the world. The flame of each new candle reminds the worshippers that something is happening, and that more is yet to come. Finally, the light that has come into the world is plainly visible as the Christ candle is lit at Christmas, and worshippers rejoice over the fact that the promise of long ago has been realized.
The first candle is the Prophet’s candle
The lighting of this candle draws attention to the anticipation of the coming of Messiah, the Anointed One. His coming is woven like a golden thread all the way through Old Testament history. God’s people were abused by power hungry kings, led astray by self centered prophets and half hearted religious leaders which resulted in some longing for God to raise up a new king who would teach them to be God’s people and lead them in righteousness and truth. They longed for a return of God’s dynamic presence in their midst
And so, God revealed to some of the prophets that He would not leave His people without a true Shepherd. While the people expected a new earthly king, their expectations fell far short of God’s revelation of Himself in Christ. And yet, the world is not yet fully redeemed. So, we again with expectation, with hope, await God’s new work in history, the Second Advent (Second Coming), in which He will again reveal Himself to the world. And we understand in a profound sense that the best, the highest of our expectations will fall far short of what our Lord’s Second Coming will reveal!
And so we light the first candle of Expectation or Hope. Not the hope that “wishes something will happen” but a Hope that knows it will happen. Because God was right about the First Advent happened exactly as the prophets declared hundreds of years earlier, and so will the second. Our hope is based on knowing God will do what He said He would do. And so we wait expectantly knowing that Jesus is coming back!!!
Celebrating Advent is counter cultural. Advent challenges us to wait, to hold off on celebrating Christmas until we’ve prepared ourselves. If we don’t plan for Advent our lives will be shaped by the frenzy of the holiday season. Won’t you take the time this season to prepare your heart for Christmas by reading the Scriptures below. Do not miss the reason for the season!
So my question is this, “Are you ready for the Second Coming? What must you do to help others get ready for His coming?” Remember you are the light to a lost and dying world. May you give an account of the hope that is within you this Christmas season!
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The Scriptures for the first week of Advent:
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13