“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14
Advent, which falls four weeks before Christmas is recognized by many Christians as the period of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The term comes from the Latin translation of “coming” and many prophecies in the Old Testament pointed to this promise. It is also the beginning of the liturgical New Year for many Christian churches. But Advent is so much more than the four weeks before Christmas and the start of a liturgical year. Advent is a time we celebrate Christ’s light in the midst of darkness. Our waiting should be a major period of introspection.
During the early days of December, Christians are called to be ready and watchful. For four weeks, we wait and prepare for Christ’s birth. While it is a great opportunity to turn outward, by reaching outside of ourselves, it is also a period of time where we should be turning inward. When you know the real meaning of Advent, you know it’s more about reflection than counting down the days. During this time, we can look at our own spiritual journey and growth, examine where we are in our relationship with God, and bring ourselves back to the path of discipleship. We can find silence and peace. Many Christians take time to engage in reflective prayer which not only helps guide us through Christmas, but also helps encourage the season in our everyday lives.
The Advent wreath, made of a circle of evergreen leaves with four standing candles, symbolizes eternal life. Each candle has a different meaning, each representing the light of God coming into the world through the birth of Jesus Christ. The first candle represents hope – the hope we have in Christ. The second candle represents peace – the peace we find in Christ. The third candle represents love – the love we have in Christ. The fourth represents joy – the joy we have in Christ. The central candle represents Christ who is the light of the world. The theme is Christ who is ever-present. We are reminded that in Him, there is no darkness at all. Christ is our most precious gift, a powerful reflection of God’s Grace and mercy.
This Advent, take a look inward. The beautiful part about Advent is how it foils the busyness that commonly comes with the Christmas Season. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of work, family and our social lives that we often forget to take out the time to think about Christ, who the season is all about. Pause. Stop for a few minutes each day during Advent and examine yourself, in silence or meditation. Take this period to not only look at where you are on your spiritual journey with God, but where you desire or plan to be. If you feel you’re not where you’d like to be on that journey, talk to God. Ask Him for guidance and peace. Challenge yourself to truly reflect on the promises that come through our faith and the Grace we receive through His light.