Go Blue!!! "We were great in '08 and we will shine in '09." How appropriate we enter the Season of Advent with our home team (Blanco, Panthers) entering their final two games on the road to the State title. "Shine in ‘09" as we light the candles of Advent. Prophetic Verse: Arise, shine; For you light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. Isaiah 60:1-3
As we begin Advent, we light one candle in the midst of all the darkness in our lives and in the world. It symbolizes our longing, our desire, our hope. Three "advents" or "comings" shape our desire. We want to be renewed in a sense that Jesus came to save us from our sin and death. We want to experience His coming to us now, in our everyday lives, to live our lives with meaning and purpose. And we want to prepare for His coming to meet us at the end of our lives on this earth.
The candles are lit progressively as follows:
First Sunday: one purple candle The First Candle (The Candle of Prophecy/Hope)
Second Sunday: two purple candles The Second Candle (The Candle of the Way)
Third Sunday: two purple candles and the rose candle The Third Candle (The Candle of Joy)
Fourth Sunday: all four candles The Fourth Candle (The Candle of Peace)
The light of the candles itself becomes an important symbol of the season. The light reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world that comes into the darkness of our lives to bring newness, life, and hope. It also reminds us that we are called to be a light to the world as we reflect the light of God's grace to others (Isa 42:6). The progression in the lighting of the candles symbolizes the various aspects of our waiting experience. As the candles are lighted over the four week period, it also symbolizes the darkness of fear and hopelessness receding and the shadows of sin falling away as more and more light is shed into the world. The flame of each new candle reminds the worshippers that something is happening, and that more is yet to come. Finally, the light that has come into the world is plainly visible as the Christ candle is lighted at Christmas, and worshippers rejoice over the fact that the promise of long ago has been realized.
The rose candle is also called the "Joy" candle and it comes out of the history of Advent. The Advent fast was broken on the third Sunday in anticipation of the great event to come. Often a fifth white candle will be placed in the center of the circle. This is the Christ Candle, symbolizing Christ's birth, and it is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the Sunday nearest November 30, and ends on Christmas Eve (Dec 24). If Christmas Eve is a Sunday, it is counted as the fourth Sunday of Advent, with Christmas Eve proper beginning at sundown.
Historically, the primary sanctuary color of Advent is Purple. This is the color of penitence and fasting as well as the color of royalty to welcome the Advent of the King. Purple is still used in Catholic churches. The purple of Advent is also the color of suffering used during Lent and Holy Week. This points to an important connection between Jesus’ birth and death. The nativity, the Incarnation, cannot be separated from the crucifixion. The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world, of the "Word made flesh" and dwelling among us, is to reveal God and His grace to the world through Jesus’ life and teaching, but also through His suffering, death, and resurrection. To reflect this emphasis, originally Advent was a time of penitence and fasting, much as the Season of Lent and so shared the color of Lent.
The word Advent means "coming" or "arrival." One way of really enriching our Advent journey is to keep in mind the three comings of Jesus, and how they relate to one another. Jesus was born into our history - at a fixed point in time in the past. Jesus comes to us now, in a whole variety of ways. Jesus promised that He will come again in glory, at the end of time.
The Incarnation: Jesus has come.
This is not the coming we await. The first coming of Jesus has already happened. Our preparation to celebrate His birth is the occasion for our deeper reflection. On the first level, it is so important that we really let ourselves experience the power of the Incarnation: God is with us. That God became one of us means that "human" is one of the ways God can be. The deeper we contemplate this mystery the more we enter into the grace of "God with us." The more we let ourselves be touched by this mystery, the more we see the connection between Christmas and Easter: all of this is "for me" - for my salvation - to free me from the power of sin and death.
My Life Now: Jesus comes to me.
When we open our hearts and our mouths and plead, "Come, O Lord," we are most directly experiencing our desire for the Lord to come to us and touch us with the grace of salvation - that we might live in freedom and peace. Jesus is present whenever we need Him to be present: actually, whenever we turn to Him - even with empty hands. Jesus is alive and active in us when we read God's Word and let it into our hearts. Jesus promised to be present with us whenever two or three are gathered together in His name. And, we know Jesus comes to us whenever our sacrifices and our sufferings unite us with His own mission. Advent is a special time to experience our longing for the presence of Jesus with us now - in all the places we need Him most.
Our Future: Jesus comes again, in glory.
The first, and most important thing we can do to prepare our children for Advent is to prepare ourselves first. After all, if we are impatient and crabby - pressured by all the busyness of this season - we won't be very good at teaching our children anything about quiet, expectant waiting. If they never hear us talk about what we long for from the Lord, how will they learn about this kind of longing? And, if they hear "the coming of Jesus" talked about at church, and perhaps at school, but never hear us talk about the meaning of the coming of Jesus for us, what kind of message will we be giving them?
Of course, our children will be watching us and listening to us - what we say and do, and what we fail to say and do. So, the first thing we can give our children is our own commitment to enter Advent as deeply as we can. We want to clear our own spirits so that we can be present to theirs. The graces we receive can be the graces we share with them.
One of the most transforming graces of Advent is given us as our longing deepens. The more grateful we become for how God saved us in Jesus, the more deeply we enter into the mystery of how Jesus is with us now. The closer we come to experiencing joy at how our Lord, Jesus Christ came into our world, faithful to God and faithful to our life journey in the flesh, the closer we come to experiencing the mystery of salvation in our everyday lives. And, as our longing is filled with the utter fullness of God's gift to us, we begin to long with the ultimate freedom: we long to be with Him in God. We live more at home in this world because our God made a home in this world. But the whole story draws us to a complete picture of who we are and where we belong. Then our prayer begins to change, in our hearts and on our lips. We still are singing, "Come, Lord, Jesus!" but our song is transformed into the free and complete song of the lover: "Come, and take me with you."
Now we watch for the day, hoping that the salvation promised us will be ours when Christ will come again in His glory.