I hope your first week of Advent went well! I’m sure you’ve noticed CBC’s Advent wreath at the front of the chancel.
So why the candles and evergreen? The Advent wreath is usually a horizontal evergreen wreath with four candles and often, a fifth, white candle in the center. Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent, the lighting of the candle can be accompanied by Bible reading and prayers.
An additional candle is lit during each subsequent week until the fifth candle, the Christ candle, is lit on Christmas Eve (or Day). The colors of the candles vary between Catholics and Protestants, but for many Protestants, the candles are red outside of the white Christ Candle.
Why candles? As I briefly mentioned in last week’s blog, we start in darkness and with each week the light grows. ‘Darkness into Light’ is an important phrase to keep in mind through this season because Advent actually has a penitent quality to it.
Since medieval times, Advent offered a period to fast and to focus thoughts on the expected second coming of Christ (recall that Advent has a two-fold meaning – recalling ancient yearning for the Messiah and the second coming of Christ).
A fast?! How can anyone fast when Christmas lights are up before the Thanksgiving Turkey is digested? How about walking through Walgreens without salivating over Christmas chocolates? How can you fast when carols are incessantly playing over speakers in malls, offices, and grocery stores? Fasting — or developing a repentant heart during Advent — could seem overly dutiful, perhaps on the verge of being a big “downer.”
Let me be clear. Advent is not re-living Israel’s sorrow or fearing we’ll be unworthy when Christ comes again. Instead, Advent sets the tone for seeing Christ in a new way. I can promise it will be new because we are always changing, increasing in knowledge, getting older, and experiencing the joys and pains of life.
One thing will never change: Christ is always before us (Paul calls it “preeminence” in Colossians), and this world was made for Him, and we (deep down) know what that means for us — He was, is, and will be our Forgiver.
I think we wrongly see repentance as admitting guilt and thereby getting back into right relationship with God. Rather, acknowledging my sin is proof that God has given me new eyes to honestly see myself. Confessing my sin to God is a celebration of my relationship with Him.
But, you may say, I still feel ashamed and I hate that feeling and don’t want to spend my Advent feeling terrible. Have no fear — that’s only your pride kicking in – and God does not need your goodness. He’s not surprised about your sin. Receive His forgiveness, and you will see Christ and Christmas in a fresh way because you’re understanding will be renewed by the Forgiver.
Don’t be afraid of your darkness. Light one more candle and read this perfect (and ancient) prayer for Advent (I sometimes can’t resist and say it in my Russell Crowe Gladiator voice):
ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who lives and reigns with thee and the Holy Spirit, now and ever. Amen.
Advent Week Two: Sunday, December 7
Set the mood by lowering the lights and and preparing candles. You’ll need five – one for each week plus one for Christmas Day. Light the first Advent candle from Week One of Advent.
Read the scriptures.
- Isaiah 40:1-11
- Psalm 85: 1-2; 8-13
- II Peter 3:8-15a
- Mark 1:1-9
Discuss what you’ve read.
- Do you know who quotes from Isaiah 40 in the New Testament?
- In the passage from the Psalms, what are the many ways God is described?
- Discuss patience as believing God’s will shall be done (ref. II Peter 3:8-15a).
- Discuss the passage from Mark. What was John proclaiming? How is admitting you’re bad actually good news?
Light the second Advent candle.
Sing together: “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.”
- “First Week of Advent: Hope” by Philip Martens
- LifeWay: Advent Week Two
- Love Come Down at Christmas, arr. Edwin Fissinger
- Music and Lyrics: “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming“
Written by Philip Martens - Website
Philip Martens has lived in Phoenix for twenty years, but grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Raised in a Christian environment (family, church, school), he desired a relationship with Christ at the age of six and was later baptized at thirteen. He graduated from ASU with degrees in History, Accountancy, and a Masters in Accountancy. His wife of 16 years, Susi, also hails from Canada; they have four children. He currently manages the US portfolio of a Canadian real estate investment trust. He has been a member of CBC since 1998.