In this post-Thanksgiving time of year, most of us are preparing for Christmas. There is much to do, from getting a Christmas tree to sending Christmas cards. We all need to find those right gifts to buy.
In the 4th and 5th centuries a tradition was beginning in the early church before Christmas. It was not about Christmas trees, gifts or feasts. Advent entailed fasting, repentance and prayer to prepare spiritually for the celebration of the first Coming of Christ in Bethlehem.
Many still celebrate the coming of Christmas through the tradition of Advent. The word Advent comes from the Latin word Adventus, which means “Coming.”
Advent liturgy uses a candle holder holding five candles. For four weeks before Christmas, each week a new candle is lit. The first week celebrates hope. The second week celebrates love. The third week celebrates joy. The fourth week celebrates peace. The fifth week, the fifth lighted candle celebrates the coming of the Christ child as a babe. That is Christmas Day.
So hope, love, joy, peace and Jesus Christ Himself are all celebrated and appreciated during advent. While the Christian tradition of Advent has been practiced for almost 1,600 years, the Advent topics are not outdated. The world would be different today if all people had hope. A lack of hope is cited as the reason for the wave of depression, suicides and addictions in America. A lack of hope has also been recently cited as the reason mass shooters decide to take their own lives and many other innocent lives with them. We all need hope. And Jesus Christ is the light and the hope of the world. Luke 2:25-35 Our country needs hope.
The Advent topic of Love is a major theme of the Christian faith. The word “love” is mentioned 567 times in the Bible. We are taught that God is love. 1 John 4:8. At Christmas we want to be a conduit of God’s wonderful love and care to others. Blessing others is the beauty of Christmas and the Christian life.
The third week’s topic is Joy. “Joy to the World, the Lord is come.” God’s joy is deep and real. Joy is not just the circumstances of happy events, but the joy of being in the protection and love of God and His plan for our lives.
When we have hope, love, and joy, then we also have peace. This kind of peace which surpasses all human understanding is given to us when our hearts and minds are in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7.
On Christmas Day we light the last candle. Christ has come! Christ came so that we walk in the light and not the darkness. Christ came so that we have life and have life abundantly. Christ also came so that we can look forward to the eternal hope of living in His presence for all eternity.1 John 5:11.
We wish you all a very blessed Christmas.
Dr. Roger Holl is Pastor of Sterling Grace Community Church. Join us on Christmas Day on Sunday, Dec. 25 at 10:30 a.m. for a Christmas Celebration of the first Coming of Christ through Christmas song and Scripture. The Celebration and Worship will be held at the Sterling Community Center.