“Christmas is a’comin’ and the goose is getting fat.
Please put a penny in the old man’s hat.
If you haven’t got a penny, then a ha’penny will do.
If you haven’t got a ha’penny, then God bless you!”
This is an old song my mother used to sing as Christmas approached. I can picture her now, singing off-key and dancing a little jig in the yellow, floral kitchen of our home.
As I look forward to the weeks leading up to Christmas, I feel an expectancy in the air. Not just the anticipation of dinner parties, presents, and carol singing, but a celebration of the true meaning of Christmas - the birth of Jesus.
Advent, from the Latin word “adventus”, means “arrival”. In the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas, we celebrate advent with a series of reflections to prepare our hearts and minds for Christmas. This year I decided to study the purpose and meaning of advent through different Christian church practices.
Join me as I reflect on the advent season over the next few weeks and explore the spiritual symbolism of this historic ritual during this wonderful season. A time of reflection and rest in a season notoriously wrought with excess, materialism, busyness, and exhaustion.
The history of advent traces back to the early church in the 4th or 5th century but is still practiced today in many congregations. It is symbolized visually by an evergreen wreath and the weekly lighting of five candles. Traditionally, each of the four weekly candles usually represents hope, peace, joy, and love. The fifth and final candle is at the centre of the wreath, usually a white candle representing the birth of Christ on Christmas Day. The purpose of each theme is to spend time reflecting on the true meaning of the season: the life of Jesus.
The advent wreath itself is made up of evergreen boughs representing life and immortality in the shape of a circle to represent the eternity of God.
The five candles themselves may be different colours, depending on your church tradition and the theme weeks may be presented in a different order.
Hope is the symbolic theme of the first week. The candle of Hope often referred to as the “Prophets Candle” signifies the old testament prophets, waiting hopefully for the coming arrival of the Messiah and the fulfilment of God’s promises. Also, the hope of the return of Christ was predicted in the new testament.
“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, prince of peace.” Isaiah 9:6 NIV
The Oxford dictionary definition of hope is “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” However, a biblical definition of hope is different. Biblical hope is an expectation and anticipation that rests on what we believe.
Hope isn’t merely wishful thinking, but trust and a secure assurance placed in a trustworthy God who loves us.
And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:5 NLT
Hope is a light shining in a dark place. Hope waits and endures.
As you reflect on the coming Christmas season and the hope of a Messiah, What is your hope today?
In a world where there is little hope in the news headlines, what assurance do you need from God today to calm your soul?
Trust in Him. The God who loves you enough to come as a baby, to connect with you, to love you. He craves a personal relationship with you.
Let the hope of Christ shine in your dark place today.