Advent is a season of anticipation and expectation leading up to the birth of Jesus.
It is a time for Christians to take a journey through the story of Christmas and to offer prayers through the week focused on the sentiment of each Sunday’s message leading up to Christmas.
Each of the four Sundays before Christmas has a different focus. While some Christians don’t recognize Advent, for those that do, it is an intimate part of the season of Christmas.
Advent wreaths were inspired in Germany when a Lutheran minister fashioned a wreath from a wheel cart. He used candles as a means for children to count down the days until Christmas. Red candles were for weekdays. White candles were for each Sunday.
Eventually, wreaths were fashioned with evergreens. The greenery represented continuing seasons, and the round shape was to signify the unending love of Christ.
While some Christian denominations don’t recognize the season of Advent, for those that do, the colors of the candles for each Sunday of Advent vary. Pink, violet, purple, white (the fifth candle lit on Christmas), and more recently, blue. Sometimes white candles with colored ribbons are used. Even the direct meaning of each is apt to be slightly different, but the focus on HOPE, PEACE, LOVE, and JOY remains constant. Altogether, they represent the light that came into the world when Christ was born and the light we share today throughout the world to light each other’s path in hope, peace, love, and joy.
Hope is akin to light shining in the darkness. This candle represents the hope of Jesus’ birth bringing light to all of God’s people. Spiritually, we place our hope in a trustworthy God. It’s a knowing that even though we can’t see God with our eyes, we can see God with our heart and know God exists.
Peace through the birth of Jesus is brought to all of God’s people. The angels appear to the shepherds and proclaim, “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to all.” (Luke 2:14) We can have inner peace. We can have peace with each other.
Love is love is love. This is the most important lesson. There is no “falling in love.” Pure love is the same for a child as it is for a spouse, even if the human aspect of feelings are felt differently. Joseph stood by Mary when he found out she was pregnant. Mary loved her child no matter the biological father. God doesn’t discern a difference. It matters not the color of a person’s skin, their gender, whether they are robbers or lovers, or any other distractions or distinctions. When we learn this lesson, we can love ourselves without judgment and even those who have hurt us.
Joy is not fleeting. It isn’t a momentary feeling or merely being happy. Joy, through loving God, is deep-seated. I want to think this is how it was for the shepherd’s to feel as they followed the star. What else could have fed their hearts for the long journey? Joy is what is experienced when we stay close to Spirit and follow our hearts. And so it is reasonable to understand that the more time we spend with God, the more apt we are to experience joy. No matter what else we experience that may be traumatic, joy stays. It can’t be taken away.
Advent rituals vary.
What doesn’t vary are lessons all of humanity may learn—the lessons of hope, peace, love, and joy. And the knowledge that all Believers may herald the coming of Jesus the Messiah and celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus.