The season of Advent

   The season of Advent helps us to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ Jesus.  The Church calls it a season of repentance, a time for turning our hearts to the Gospel voice of God.  The use of an Advent wreath with its four or five candles can help us enter into a spirit of repentance.  If we take a few minutes immediately after dinner to light the candles and re-read and ponder the lesson assigned to each, we can foster a readiness for the celebration of the Incarnation, the birth of the Son of God.

   During the week of November 28, we light one of the blue (or purple) candles, the Candle of Hope, a candle linked most often to the Prophet Isaiah.  His visions of Christ Jesus are so accurate, so clear, so descriptive of the events of Jesus’ life that some people place his writings alongside the Evangelists-Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  He wrote:

     For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
           and the government will be on his shoulders.
     And he will be called
           Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
     Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  (Isaiah 9:6)

   If you have a few minutes more, listening to Handel’s Messiah, “For unto us a Child is born,” ( a rich musical supplement to accompany your ponderings and prayers. 

   For the second week of Advent, we ignite the second blue (or purple) candle, the Candle of Preparation.  The passage selected to accompany the candle continues Isaiah’s prophecy form the first week: Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:7)

   The reign of Christ is characterized by peace, in Hebrew, shalom. Shalom extends in meaning beyond civil peace to include all manner of blessing – prosperity, health, strength, joy, favorable relationships, and a deep contentedness.  

   In the third week of Advent, beginning December 12, the Candle of Joy, the pink candle flames.  As it burns, the Spirit bids us to rejoice.  Joy characterizes repentance because we were created to know and be known by God. As we turn to hear the good news of the God who restores us to Himself through the Bethlehem Child, we discover joy.  The passage linked to the Candle of Joy, Philippians 4:4-5 urges us to act, to repent, to rejoice:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:4-5)

   During the fourth week of Advent, we light the remaining blue (or purple) candle, called the Angel Candle, perhaps in reference to the annunciation of Christ’s birth to Mary by the Archangel Gabriel (Luke 1:26-38).  For our contemplation, as we reignite the Angel candle throughout the week, the words of the Apostle John urge us to receive God’s love revealed in His Son and to pass it on to others:

   Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:7-12)

   If your wreath has a fifth candle, a white one, on Christmas Eve, this the Christ candle is first lit and then for the twelve days of the Christmas season flames during our ponderings on the birth of the Savior.

   A blessed season of preparation, and a blessed Christmas to you,

   Pastor Hank and Beth