Our family enjoyed a wonderful get-together for Thanksgiving. We ate too much, laughed a lot, caught up on family news, and counted our blessings. Because Thanksgiving is an American holiday located so close to Christmas, one of the natural questions that came up among family was, “What do you want for Christmas?”
It was easy for my 11-year-old grandson to rattle off his list of Play-Station, snare drum, and Nerf Gun. Talking about what you want for Christmas can be almost as fun as getting the gift! That is what Advent is about—the anticipation of the gift. Yesterday (Sunday), marked the first Sunday in Advent. This weekend I put away the autumn décor and replaced it with all things Christmas. One of the most important items I unpack and display each year is our family Advent wreath.
Reflecting upon my childhood, the Christmas season was always a special time in my church. However, observing each Sunday of Advent was something I first became acquainted with when my husband became a military chaplain. I found it to be a rich and meaningful observance. Using the advent wreath to celebrate the season became a special family tradition that we continue to practice in our home.
The word Advent derives from the Latin word adventus, which means coming or visit. We look back with remembrance and rejoicing at Christ’s first coming to the world. However, we don’t stop with looking back, we look forward with expectation and hope for the day Christ will come again.
The reminders of Advent are something to which I am drawn. Perhaps, as a visual learner, the symbolism of the wreath communicates the message to my mind and heart. The candles on the wreath remind me that Christ is the light of the world and the victor over darkness. As we light a candle each week, I remember Christ came to redeem this weary world–and he will come again!
Each candle reminds me of an important aspect in the process of waiting for my Redeemer.
The first candle represents HOPE.
And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising (Isaiah 60:3 ESV).
The second candle represents PEACE.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6 ESV).
The third candle represents JOY.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away (Isaiah 35:10 ESV).
The fourth candle represents LOVE.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him (1 John 4:9 ESV).
Finally, the center white candle represents CHRIST.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger (Luke 2:13-16 ESV).
In a culture when the merchandising of Christmas décor happens in October, I need my simple advent wreath to remind me that I am waiting for my Redeemer.
Observing Advent refreshes my hope and focuses my mind on the true meaning of Christmas.
Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. –Luke 1:68 NLT
Emmanuel, thank you for leaving your throne and coming to dwell among us. In the challenges of each day, remind me of your coming. Help me to prepare my heart today in anticipation, amen.
Here are some great resources to help you observe Advent this year. From online devotions, Advent devotional books, and a Bible journaling Advent study, there is something to help you prepare your heart for the Redeemer.
- Biola University’s online Advent devotions combine art, music, and devotional thought. I found the Lent devotions to be excellent, and I’m sure the Advent offering will be just as good. You can find it here: http://ccca.biola.edu/advent/
- Following the Star is another online Advent experience. I’ve “followed the star” several years at this site: http://d365.org
- Touching Wonder by John Blase is one of my favorite Advent devotional books: http://www.amazon.com/Touching-Wonder-Recapturing-Awe-Christmas/dp/1434764656
- Another favorite Advent devotional is God Is In the Manger, taken from the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: http://www.amazon.com/God-Is-Manger-Reflections-Christmas/dp/0664234291
- Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift-Unwrapping Christmas focuses on The Jesse Tree: http://www.amazon.com/The-Greatest-Gift-Unwrapping-Christmas/dp/1414387083/ref=pd_sim_sbs_14_1?ie=UTF8&dpID=51j96HtYpVL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR111%2C160_&refRID=02W9ZP2HPCB8RCNECBGD
- Bible Journaling is a new and meaningful form of personal devotions. This site offers an Advent Bible study that features Bible Journaling: http://saralaughed.com/index.php/tag/advent-illustrated/
What resources have you found to make Advent meaningful? How do you observe Advent?