Take a moment to close your eyes and go on a journey of remembering. Think back to when you were a little child and some special event was to occur in the very near future. You may have been awaiting a birthday or a holiday or Christmas. As you remember, tap into the anticipation that you experienced at this time. Each day brought greater excitement and expectancy even though it felt as if the anticipated moment would never arrive.
For us Christians, the anticipation of the birth of Christ in the season of Advent resembles our childhood experiences. The word, Advent, derives from the Latin adventus, which means coming. While it is a period of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas, it is also a reminder of the Second Coming of Christ.
Fortunately for us, rather than having to endure the agonising wait of the child, there are symbols that make the anticipation of the birth of the Christ Child a little easier. The Sunday readings break down the period into two specific sections, those of remembrance and anticipation. On the first two Sundays we look forward to Christ’s second coming and on the remaining two we look backwards to the story of Christ’s first coming in the Bethlehem of long ago.
The Advent candles, which are usually placed in a wreath, highlight the significance of each of these Sundays. The wreath, which is created out of evergreens, symbolises everlasting life. The circle reminds us of God’s unending love.
As we light the first one, the candle of hope, we have a beautiful reminder to prepare our hearts even as we prepare our homes to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It is hope that keeps us from despair and urges us to be compassionate, kind and loving towards one another. It is hope that encourages us to believe and trust in a merciful God.
The second candle represents faith. It is sometimes known as the Bethlehem Candle, as it serves to remind us of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. It symbolises the expectation and utter confidence felt by all who are anticipating the coming of the Messiah. It is
While three of the Advent candles are purple, the third one to be lit is a pink (rose) colour, and that is the liturgical colour for joy. This Sunday is known as Gaudete Sunday, that is, it is a day when we rejoice that the world has experienced the birth of Jesus and that we have reached the midpoint of this Advent season.
The final candle, which brings us a a message of peace, is lit on the fourth Sunday of Advent. It reminds us of the message of the angels:
Jesus brought about peace in the most unexpected of ways. Today he brings us inner peace and thus encourages us to put aside our differences and do what we can to bring about his peace in today’s world.
As we move into this coming Advent season, may we capture the excitement and anticipation of the child as we prepare for the birth of Jesus in our hearts and in the world around us.
Maryellen Thomas rsj