Advent is the time of year that we celebrate our greatest gift – Light.
This is done by the lighting of candles. Traditionally the first Sunday of December is when the first candle of the advent wreath is lit. Advent always finishes on Christmas Eve.
Another year is now drawing to a close. What has this year been like for you?
Advent is a call to pause, to wait, to reflect.
I wonder in the business of shopping, partying, celebrating and working if we think to stop and remember the coming – the coming of the light of the world.
The word Advent comes from the Latin word meaning coming. The birth of Jesus is the fulfilment of the divine promise that Jesus has come and will come again. Advent is a double reflection, the reflection of the year past and the hope of the future to come. Advent is a waiting time, we await the celebration of the birth of Jesus, we await Christ’s second coming, but God waits for us too.
Advent is not Christmas.
Advent is not an extended pre-Christmas Season.
Advent is a gift—a time and season all to itself.
Advent is a time where we reflect on waiting. Something which generally we are not very good at doing.
We wait first of all for Christmas but we also wait for Jesus to come again. Beyond the world that we see, is another way of being, another way that we can be. No matter how the world may look, no matter how despairing, beyond the darkness there is hope and light.
“Behold, I Come”
“Behold, I come”—the darkness lightens
Above all sorrow and all fear;
Beyond the clouds the Daystar brightens,
And our deliverance is near;
The groaning earth awaits the hour
When all the wrongs of time are past,
And clothed with glory and with power,
The King of kings shall reign at last.
—Annie Johnson Flint
There is something very powerful in the simple act of lighting a candle. There is something about the flame that is mesmerising. Many of us have our own and deeply personal reasons for lighting candles. We light a candle to remember those who have died or who are lost to us. Like a lighthouse we light a candle to show the way home, to light the way. To warn of dangers, to light the path.
A candle flame shines its own light in the midst of the darkness. It pushes back the darkness. A symbol of Jesus who came to be the light of the world. No matter how dark the world looks, there is a light still shining that the darkness cannot overcome.
The Advent Wreath holds great symbolism for Christians at Christmas time and has done for centuries. I’m sure many of you have a version of this hanging on your front door. The wreath is made of various evergreens, signifying continuous life and victory over suffering;
The pine represents immortality, the prickly leaves of the holly remind us of the crown of thorns. The wreath itself represents the never-ending circle of God’s love. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. The green of the wreath represents the hope of eternal life that comes through Christ and serves a reminder of the freshness of God’s love and promises.
There are five candles in and around the wreath which represent the pillars of the Christmas Story. White, purple and pink.The white candle in the centre symbolises Christ. There are three purple candles on the advent wreath. The mysterious color of purple is associated with both royalty and spirituality.
A purple candle of Hope.
A purple candle of Peace
A purple candle of Love
Finally a Pink Candle which represents the Joy of Christmas
The white candle and the light of the candles reminds us that Jesus is the Light of the world. His birth represented the coming of the light into darkness, and that we are called to reflect that light in our lives. We may reflect that every year at this time we celebrate his coming.
We celebrate His hope, His Peace. His Joy, And His never-ending love. We celebrate the fact that Jesus has come and will come again.
In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and was God. He was with God in the beginning. In him was life and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not understood it
We need to be lighthouses to our communities. Illuminators of truth and of pathways. Candles that push back the darkness and light the footsteps of those who would otherwise stumble in the dark.
The Candle of Hope:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him: So that you may overflow with hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13.
The prophet Isaiah says, “The heir to David’s throne will come, and he will rule over the nations and they will place their hope on him.”’
We have hope because God is faithful and will keep the promises he has made to us. Hope is that thing inside of us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us. So long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.
All of us live with deep longings: The need to be loved; The desire for security; The hope for a time when we are free from fear. And this is why the Christmas season can be such a vulnerable time for the likes of us. Even in a time of much shopping and partying, those deeper longings seem to come closer to the surface during the Christmas season.
Our deepest longings can only be fulfilled in Christ! Strangely enough, true joy is possible because of what happened long ago in Bethlehem! The birth of Christ 2000 years ago enables each of us to find new birth in Christ and eternal security.
But you, O Bethlehem, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past. Micah 5:2
A Messiah. The son of God who would step forth from Eternity!!
When Christ was born, Eternity entered time; God himself entered world history in the form of a human baby. Fully human and fully divine.
The Candle of Peace
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his
shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting
Father and Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6-7
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising
God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” Luke 2:14
“Peace on earth!” proclaims the Angelic army.
The angels have just told shepherds in the fields about the birth of Jesus, and they’re soon to travel to Bethlehem to meet him.
“Peace on earth,” it’s proclaimed, when the Roman Empire continues to occupy and oppress the people of God.
“Peace on earth” – even when it looks like it’s not possible.
The Hallmark sentimentality about the meaning of Christmas is of peace and harmony. No hatred, no criticism; No divisions. A world in which there is no warfare in any of its forms. Is that in fact, the true meaning of Christmas?
No, it is not.
The true meaning of Christmas is not about man loving man; the true meaning of Christmas is about God loving man. For God so loved the World…..
“But the angels,” you say.
The angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace toward men.”
They did sing of peace, but they did not sing of peace between men; they sang of peace between a man and his creator.
The birth of Jesus brought about the end of our alienation from God. It brought about reconciliation. This reconciliation to God is the peace of which the angels sang. When people find peace with God, then that Peace automatically flows over as peace toward each other. Unity, forgiveness and reconciliation flow from a heart at peace with God…
There is a war that wages between good and evil, and Jesus came to bring the hope of victory to those of us who are in the middle of that battle. Christmas does not make life any easier, or any smoother. Life is full of hardship and sacrifice. Our joy is the joy of the hope of victory. That eventually good will triumph over evil. There will be freedom and peace on earth.
The Candle of Love.
The pure love of Christ: An unconditional, sacrificial love that puts others above itself. A Love that is not envious, boastful, proud or rude. It is not self-seeking or easily angered and it does not keep a record wrongs.
Love so amazing, so divine demands my soul, my life my all?
King of Heaven and Earth!
I wonder why Jesus didn’t come as a King with a Royal entourage.
Why didn’t he come as Caesar with armies to enforce his will?
Why didn’t He come as a celebrity, His every move recorded by the paparazzi?
Why didn’t He come today when He could have reached the world with Face book
and social media? I wonder why Jesus didn’t think of that?
Why did He come as a helpless baby in a manger and grow up to be the suffering
Jesus would save the world, but not through power. His conquest is the triumph of love; the world will be saved through love. Love is greater than all the power in the world. Jesus would later be heard to say; “I’m telling you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”. Let the little children come to me, and do not get in their way, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these for the greatest mystery of all is that a little child will lead them.
Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God .
All are welcome to come. Old and young, Men and women,The lowly, the weak, The poor and lame The forgotten the marginalised, The rejected and sick.
All are welcome to come.
The final candle is the light of Joy.
When the angels came they sang a message of JOY! “…
And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them.
‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord”.
Let us just for a moment to reflect upon the glad tidings of great joy.
The prophets spoke of anticipated joy when the day of fulfilment would come.
The angels spoke of joy when Christ was born.
Joy is that satisfaction that comes when wrong turns to right. When loss turns to gain,
When death turns to life. The idea of joy in the Bible is intimately tied to the idea of “hope.” Paul ties them together in Romans when he speaks of “rejoicing in hope.”We can start to see, then, why it is possible for joy to coexist with sorrow and suffering.
On the one hand, this is a hard life. We have troubles. The world is still full of heartbreak and hostility. There is a lot to cry about; On the other hand, we know that God will ultimately triumph over it all. The aching need that we still feel in our hearts will be finally and completely fulfilled. Because we have this hope, we can walk with Joy.
The power of a joy that is not dependent on the circumstances of our lives. It is a gift of the spirit to those who follow Christ, and whose souls are anchored in the hope that Christ provides. As the magi and the shepherds and Mary and Joseph looked down on a baby lying in the manger, what brought them joy was not the vision of a world where everyone was as gentle and innocent as a baby.
What brought them joy was the vision of the final and ultimate defeat of sin and death. They were looking at a gentle baby but they were also looking at a liberator.
One who would proclaim good news to the poor?
Declare freedom for the prisoners.
Recover sight for the blind.
And one who would set the anxious free from their burdens.
Jesus came to turn the darkness into light. To make the rough places smooth.
And we who believe in Him have this confidence that when we pray He hears us.
He has promised us that in His presence there is fullness of joy
Joy rises above happiness it exceeds every delight. Genuine joy is that place in the heart where love and expectation, Patience and affection, Worship and purpose Answered prayer and peace all unite together to produce – Everlasting Joy
Why don’t you light a candle tonight, spend a few minutes more quietly looking at the light of the candles and reflecting upon the light that Jesus has brought into the world. Upon the hope, peace, love and joy that he wants to show you this Christmas.
The Melbourne Gospel Choir are dear friends of mine. This is Channel 9 Carols by Candlelight with Darren Percival. The MGC have a new Christmas Album out “Christmas Live in the Streets”. Get it here:
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