December 1, 2019

First Sunday of Advent

 “So too, you must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Advent Traditions

Advent is my favorite season of the church year.  First and foremost, because it teaches us to look forward to the coming of Jesus with love and longing in our hearts.  And secondly, I think I love this season because it is so full of decorations and faith-filled symbols.

Perhaps the most common symbol we think about when we celebrate Advent is the Advent Wreath.  I remember as a child looking forward to being able to light one or more candles each night as we prayed as a family.

The first Sunday of Advent we light the first purple candle as a symbol of Hope that comes from the coming messiah brining salvation.  The second Sunday we light the second purple candle as a symbol of Peace for Christ the Prince of Peace.  The third Sunday we light the rose candle as a symbol of Joy in honor of the shepherds who heard the joyful news about the Christ Child.  And the fourth Sunday we light the final purple candle as a symbol of Love in honor of God’s love for us.  As we read in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

The flames on the candles symbolize Christ, the light of the world, and this light gets brighter as more candles are lit and we come closer to Christmas.  The wreath is in a circle as a symbol of God’s eternity and unity.

Another wonderful family tradition for Advent is an Advent Calendar.  This special calendar has a scripture passage for each day of Advent which anticipates the coming of Jesus at Christmas.  This is a wonderful tradition, especially for families with younger children, but also for us adults, to see how scripture leads up to the birth of Jesus.  (Advent calendars are available in the back of church!)

A Jesse Tree is another way to walk through each day of Advent by looking at bible stories that look forward to the coming of Jesus.  The name comes from Isaiah 11:1 – “A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.”  Jesus, of course, is the shoot that sprouts from the stump of Jesse.  Each day of Advent a symbol of special significance is hung on the Jesse Tree.  I encourage you to look this up online and consider making your own Jesse Tree.

Another simple DIY Advent activity is to make linking paper rings—one for each day of Advent.  Then each morning, let one of your children cut one of the paper rings.  My family really enjoyed this growing up, since it is such a good visual of Christmas coming closer each day.

Then of course there are the important Nativity Scene, Christmas Tree, and Christmas Lights.  These certainly add to the festivity and anticipation leading up to Christmas.  However, I urge you to resist the urge to setup everything right after Thanksgiving, and instead do it bit by bit as we come closer to Christmas Day…thus growing in anticipation.  (Or, if already up, not turn all the lights on right away.)

Advent is such a wonderful and important season.  While the world jumps right from Thanksgiving (or even Halloween) to Christmas, it is important for us to celebrate this season as a time to prepare our hearts and look forward to the coming of Jesus with longing and love.

You are in my daily prayers.

God bless you,

Fr. VanDenBroeke