Each Sunday during the season of Advent I will be publishing a devotional post. This first one is a bit late, but I’m using Thanksgiving activities as my lateness excuse! This first post discusses the origins of and traditions behind the celebration of Advent.
First Sunday of Advent – The Sunday of Hope
The first Sunday of Advent is when Christians traditionally begin the celebration of Advent. The secular world, especially retail businesses began the Christmas count down several weeks ago. Commercials are telling us it just won’t be a decent Christmas without that new, expensive car on our driveway; other advertising assures us that we need to shop until we drop and/or our credit cards max out. I’ve always felt that when Santa rides in at the end of the Macy’s parade then it is Christmas! But let’s put the worldly celebration aside for a moment and focus on the traditions and meanings behind the Advent season.
Advent is the season preceding Christmas In the church calendar; the Christmas begins on Christmas Eve and concludes twelve days later on January 6th with Epiphany. Early church leaders designated the month of December as the month to celebrate Christ’s birth. Historians and theologians are unsure why that month was chosen, except perhaps as a counter-celebration to the pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. December 25th was established as the birthday of Christ in 354 C.E and in 440 the pope decreed that Christmas should indeed be observed on that day. In the fourth century Advent was a period of penance and a time of preparation for baptisms that were to take place on Epiphany. In the sixth century Advent was further structured by observing the season on the four weeks before Christmas day; in addition a special liturgy was written. In the ninth and tenth centuries the expectation of Christ’s second coming was added into the celebration.
The liturgical colors associated with Advent are purple and royal blue. Purple is used during Advent and at Easter to represent Christ’s royalty and kingship. Royal blue is used in some churches during Advent; it is generally considered to be “Mary’s color” and represents the hope found in Christ’s birth.
Many churches feature an advent wreath with four purple candles surrounding a center candle that can be either pink or white. Each Sunday a candle is lit to represent each week and on Christmas Eve the middle candle (the Christ candle) is lit. The use of evergreens around the wreath and in the church facility symbolizes the life and hope that Christ’s birth brings to mankind. The first candle, lit today, symbolizes hope.
Scriptures to consider:
14 ‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah:
15 ‘In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David A Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, And Jerusalem will dwell safely. And this is the name by which she will be called:
THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.’[a]
Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
2 The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined
6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
20 Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart shall rejoice in Him, Because we have trusted in His holy name. 22 Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, Just as we hope in You.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, Holy Bible. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.