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Advent and the Whimsical Nature of Christmas

We know that Christmas is centered around the birth

of Jesus, the Christ child, but what is it about the

Christmas season that is so different from the rest of

the year? Kindness seems to emerge, benevolence is

more prevalent, evil thoughts take a pause, differences

are often suspended, and “Merry Christmas”

greetings broadcast in the market square are jubilant

as if to say, “God Bless You.”

It is a centuries old quest to somehow bottle the grandeur, supernatural attributes,

and ambience of Christmas and spread it over the rest of the year. The

lyrics of “Its Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” capture this idea, but

the underpinning landscape runs much deeper. So, let’s look at Advent, which

embodies the divine mysteries of this hallowed and coveted time of year.

Embodied in the ancient Christian liturgical calendar, Advent comes from the

Latin word adventis, which means coming or arrival. The Bible does not say

anything specifically about observing Advent, but Christian history chronicles

Advent all the way back to 480 AD. Advent and Lent, both celebrated during

the liturgical year, have two common themes: penitential (sorrowful and atonement)

and pilgrimage (journey to a holy place). While Advent looks forward to

the coming Messiah’s birth, Lent prepares for His Resurrection.

In the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day, churches that observe ancient

liturgy light candles each week of Advent, all of which have significant

meaning.

Week one represents HOPE! There is a sense of great excitement, hope, and

anticipation of the coming of the Savior. The first candle is referred to as the

Prophecy Candle and signifies the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies

about a coming Messiah.

Week two represents PEACE! One of the names of Jesus is “Prince of Peace.”

To honor this, we intentionally seek to find the good in our fellow men rather

than focusing on their faults. Somehow, differences are set aside during Advent.

This second candle is referred to as the Bethlehem Candle.

Week three represents JOY! “Joy to the World” is one of the classic carols we

sing, reflecting joy in the salvation of mankind and in the fact that the one who

liberates us from sin is coming soon. Referred to as the Shepherds Candle, this

third candle is rose pink and signifies the halfway point in our pilgrimage to

discovering the Messiah. This Sunday is also known as Gaudete Sunday, which

in Latin means “rejoice.”

Week four represents LOVE! God’s unconditional love for mankind was manifested

in giving us HIS only begotten son who would reconcile God with man.

Known as the Angel’s Candle, this fourth week in Advent reminds us to find

love in our heart for our fellow man, giving generously to show that unconditional

love to others, even though something as simple as giving the

hard-working waitress an astonishing Christmas tip.

In 1999, my wife, son, and I were blessed to go on a pilgrimage to Israel during

Advent and the Jewish religious holiday of Hanukkah. One of the grand and

whimsical moments of the trip happened at the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem.

As we were descending the stone-hewn stairs under the altar of the Church of

the Nativity (a Coptic church), we heard the thunderous and jubilant voices of

a tour group of pilgrims from Chicago singing, “Oh Come, Let Us Adore Him.”

With candles lit in the nativity crib, we joined them in singing this worshipful

hymn. It was as if we were arriving with the shepherds, paying homage to the

newborn King. Unforgettable!

Children serve as our role models during Advent, demonstrating great anticipation

of Christmas Day with a guileless heart. In the New Testament (Matthew

18:4), we are admonished to become humble like little children to enter the

Kingdom of Heaven.

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah sets the tone of Advent (Isaiah 11:6), also

incorporating children: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the

leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the

fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” God’s Peace Filled the

Earth!

As we approach Christmas Day during Advent, may we take on the humility of

a child, looking with excitement to the Hope of HIS coming, the Peace on Earth

He brings, and the Joy He puts in our hearts, all while allowing his unconditional

Love to flow from us to others.

Discovering Advent is discovering the supernatural attributes of Christmas.

Merry Christmas and may God bless you and your family.

 

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