This year, my winter celebrations are piling up, one right on top of the other. With a ‘fridge still full of Thanksgiving leftovers, and four candles still burning brightly atop the Menorah, I’m about the flip the calendar over to December and usher in Advent. This precious time of waiting and remembrance before Christmas.
In the early church, Advent was celebrated with fasting ending with a celebration to signify the arrival of the Magi. In more recent times, we’ve become most familiar with the three purple candles and one pink, lit each Sunday leading up to Christmas.
My husband and I have always kept Advent as one of our family traditions and have enjoyed sharing it with our daughter. One of the reasons I love this season so much is that it puts the brakes on the rush to celebrate. These days, you can hardly get through the back-to-school rush before Halloween is on the shelves, then Thanksgiving, (Hanukkah if you’re lucky and more urban), and before you know it, Christmas. As in Christmas Eve. Bring me presents, piles of food, and lots of celebrating.
When you celebrate Advent, there is a bit of a pause before you go hurtling through the month that’s likely filled to the brim with fun, family-centered get-togethers, and gathering of friends around warm drinks and warmer fires. I want that breath. I want that pause. I want that small space of retreat to remember. I love to celebrate, but I want to recall with anticipation just what I’m celebrating. These are the traditions I cherish.
The First Candle – Hope & Prophesy
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:2 & 6 ESV
Because of this prophesy in Isaiah, and so many others, we have hope. The God who threw off the mighty robes of heaven to become Love come down to be wrapped in mere swaddling clothes in a meager manger – that God holds the ebb and flow of the universe in His hands. And in His heart, He holds a vast, immeasurable love for you and me. That love is at the heart of the identity of our relationship with Him.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 1 John 4:9 ESV
We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19 ESV
Because of the relationship we have through Christ, we become part of the larger family – the larger part of the body of Christ. With that family comes a sense of identity and belonging that we may not have had growing up – knowing without a doubt that we have been personally created by a loving God who has a plan for your life. What is that, if not hope?
Whether or not you light the Advent candles, I invite you to pause for a moment as the season begins and meditate on the prophesy and hope that was spoken into your life so many years ago, on the hope that is offered now – a connection with a larger family and the love of a Father who will never let you go, and the hope for a future – your future in the hands of Christ who loved you enough to die for you, that you might live through Him.