Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What is Advent?

My friend and colleague, Pastor Glen VanderKloot presented this overview (which I've edited slightly) to explain what Advent is about back in 2004. Since this Sunday, December 2, brings us to the First Sunday in Advent, I thought that I'd present his devotional piece on Advent once again:
Advent is the four weeks before Christmas when we prepare for Jesus. Some people have an Advent calendar with small doors they open each day until Christmas Eve. Sometimes there are pictures and Bible verses behind the doors, sometimes a treat. The Advent wreath is another way we celebrate the season. Each Sunday during Advent we light another candle on the Advent wreath. But why do we do these things?

Advent begins of the Sunday nearest November 30 includes four Sundays. [This year Advent begins on December 2.]

The word Advent means "the coming.” Since the fourth century when Advent was a time to prepare for baptism to the Middle Ages when Advent became a time to prepare for the second coming of Jesus, Advent has been and still is a time of spiritual reflection and anticipation.

Today Christians still view Advent as a season to prepare for the second coming of Jesus. Surprisingly, it is only since the 1900's that Advent has come to be a time of anticipating the Nativity on Christmas Day.

The Advent wreath is just one symbol of the season. While no one is exactly sure how it began, it is thought that they began with pre-Christian people who lit candles as a sign of hope in the long dark winters. In the Middle Ages, the Christians adapted this tradition and used Advent Wreaths as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas. St. John tells us that Jesus is the light that has come into the world. By the 1600's both the Lutherans and Roman Catholics had formal practices surrounding the Advent wreath.

The Advent wreath is a circle that represents the never-ending love of God. It can be decorated in many ways. Often the branches of evergreens are used which remind us that with Jesus we will have eternal life. The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. Some churches use three purple and one pink candle while others use all blue. There can also be a white candle in the center that is lit on Christmas Eve for Jesus.

No matter how a wreath is decorated or the color of the candles, we light it each Sunday to remind us to prepare the way because Jesus is coming.

The light has come into the world,
and people who do evil things are judged guilty
because they love the dark more than the light.
People who do evil hate the light and won't come to the light,
because it clearly shows what they have done.
But everyone who lives by the truth will come to the light,
because they want others to know that God is really
the one doing what they do.
John 3:19-21 Contemporary English


Dear God, thank you for sending your Son, Jesus,
and for things like Advent wreaths that help remind us
what Christmas is all about. Amen

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