Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Anticipation & Hope of Christmas

This year at Hannaford, I've suggested we celebrate anticipation and Hope of Christmas through the lighting of Advent candles and scripture each week. I got a few odd looks as if to say, "Isn't that some type of Roman Catholic ritual" Of course it is not. A great many church in America do celebrate the Advent season through the lighting of candles and recitation of scripture.

After getting the go-ahead, I began looking into how we might observe Advent. Much to my surprise, there is really no one way. I found that some use four candles, some use five. Some use three purple and one rose candle, and other use a different combination. I also found that for different people, the candles represent different things.

There is the Names of Christ Advent. For some there are the Prophesy, Bethlehem, Shepherd, Angel, and Christ candles for Advent. Also, there is the Waiting, Dreaming, Healing, Promise, and Christ Advent.

Regardless of the particular tradition, the observance of Advent candle lighting seems an important one for worshiping congregations. It helps foster the anticipation of Christmas, not simply for the giving and getting of gifts, but the anticipation of the coming of Christ.

The word 'Advent' itself, is defined as “The arrival of something or someone important or awaited.” An important aspect of observing Advent is to connect the experiences of ancient God-followers with ours today. Using the themes of Hope, Peace, Joy, Love, and Light, we will attempt to look back to those who anticipated Jesus' coming as well as hope for His coming return.
  • HOPE in Christ (December 3) - Like God's people centuries ago, we also look forward with HOPE and anticipation to the coming of the Christ.
  • PEACE in Christ (December 10) - Through long generations, God prepared a way in our world for the coming of His Son, and is still bringing peace to darkened lives. Jesus is our Peace, Jesus. – The Prince of peace.
  • JOY in Christ (December 17) - We know that when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the angels brought "good news of a great joy, which shall be to all people." The good news of Jesus' birth and the promise of peace are still "tidings of great joy" for us today…not only because Christ came, but also because He is still here.
  • LOVE of Christ (December 24) - We ask God to give us such love and wonder, that with shepherds and wise men and pilgrims unknown, we may come to adore the holy child, the promised King; and with our gifts worship him, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
  • LIGHT of the World (Christmas Eve) - Christ has made God known to us, and He makes us known to God. He can make the darkness and the despair of our lives shine like day. He is the Light of the world, the dawning of a new day.
It is my prayer all people would experience the anticipation and hope of Christ this Christmas season; that you and I, like generations before, would find hope, peace, joy, and love through Jesus, who is the Light of the world.