My childhood and young adult years were informative times in the Lutheran church. But, as strong as my family’s practice was in this religious conviction, I cannot remember a time we celebrated Advent. Christmas always revolved around being good for Santa or decorating a tree and our home, or other festive activities. Never once did we slow down and light the candles of an Advent wreath. Perhaps this concept is foreign to you, too, but the German Lutherans started the holy season of Advent. This was my family’s background! I cannot understand why my early church did not create a celebration for this special time of the year.
As I researched for this blog, I discovered Advent traditions are usually a personal choice for each church to decide, if or when it is celebrated at all. Well, now I understand why I didn’t learn about it as a child. This serious time of fasting, reading of scriptures and hearing a sermon related to Jesus’s birth just wasn’t critical enough to exploit to a listening parish. Gulp! As a non-Lutheran, Christian informative, I want to impart upon you today, the meaning of Advent because it is so essential to our beliefs.
Let’s listen to this beautiful Advent tune, “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel” sung by Enya:
Christians should embrace the four Sundays, or four weeks leading up to Christmas Day. It’s a time to prepare our hearts; the second coming of Christ and Jesus’s birth. The beginning of this liturgical year includes Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. When candles are lit, and twinkling lights appear this time of the year, it reminds us Jesus overcame darkness for our salvation. He is the reason for the season!
Hundreds of years ago, the Advent evergreen wreath became a tradition in many churches and homes. Each week, one of five candles is lit to symbolize our preparation of the coming of the Lord. Today, in fact, marks the first Sunday of Advent. A burning purple candle (other colors may be used too) is representing the expectation of God’s return as He so promised us. Next Sunday, a second candle will symbolize hope; the third Sunday’s candle is for the joy of our Savior’s impending birth and God’s love; and the fourth Sunday’s candle, burning on Christmas Day, signifies the purity of Jesus’s birth. The large Christ candle in the middle of the wreath will be lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day reminding us Jesus is the light of the world.
Many symbols of Advent exist today, but the most common are:
• The Chrismon tree decorated in white and gold ornaments, indicative of Christ’s majesty and purity, is used in many churches at Christmas.
• The Jesse tree or Advent tree is decorated each week with handmade ornaments or objects representing Old Testament events from creation to the Birth of Jesus. It was named after the bible scripture Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots.”
• Advent Calendars which typically begin on December 1st, goes through December 24th. Most calendars have little paper doors over each date. When opened, there may be an image, Bible verse, or even a piece of chocolate. This custom dates back to the mid-19th century when German Protestants made chalk marks on doors to count the days leading up to Christmas.
• Trumpets were used by God throughout the Bible. They symbolize the truths God would have us learn and were used in biblical days to indicate to Israel the advent of seasons of worship.
• A six-pointed star, known as the Star of David, is hung on the second Saturday of Advent. Though a Jewish symbol, many churches use it during Christmas because it serves as a reminder Jesus was born Jewish and is a descendant of King David, whose kingdom was to be eternal.
• The fleur-de-lis represents purity as in the Virgin Mary. Its three points, also symbolize the Trinity and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
My Christian friends, if you have not introduced Advent into your home, it’s a great time to do so. Christmas isn’t just about Santa Claus and gifts. Slow down and light the candles for Jesus! Remember the reason for the season – Jesus Christ taking on human flesh. God bless each and every one of you!
This week will be a SPECIAL EDITION of “Everything Christmas Blogs”! You do not want to miss these special stories! See you on Tuesday!
Give the gift which keeps on giving!