I hate waiting. I hate waiting in line, I hate waiting for my food to be cooked, I hate waiting for the kids to get out of school. I just don’t like sitting around with nothing to do when something else should be happening. I bring books or snacks or my phone or a crochet project on long car rides because my hands need to be doing something (or else I crash into a nap… which is a whole other story).
So, when I discovered that the real meaning of Advent was anticipatory waiting… I wasn’t too keen. I don’t think many of us are good at waiting. Have you noticed that radio stations are playing Christmas music already?! The stores have been in Christmas mode since the day after Halloween! The marketers out there certainly don’t like waiting! They want us to be spending our dough faster and faster these days… no waiting! Order now! Direct ship! Buy online! Available 24 hours, seven days a week!
Let’s step back for a minute. In case you are not familiar with the term “advent”… it is a traditional practice of the Christian church to anticipate the coming of Christ at Christmas, and then, in turn, His final return to earth. Similar to the practice of Lent before Easter, it gives us a chance to slow down, to think and ponder, and to hope for the future. It’s something I have to work on… this waiting.
My first exposure to advent was those cardboard chocolate calendars. The ones with the little doors you would open every day from December first until the 25th. Back then, I didn’t understand what it meant… I simply enjoyed the treats everyday! Later, we began to celebrate the four Sundays of advent at our church. It was then, that I understood the symbolism, the tradition, and the true meaning of the practice. It is something I have come to cherish as an adult. It’s a discipline that that reminds me to slow down, to appreciate my family, to encourage my church family, and to rejoice in the season — and not to be so caught up in the rush of the “stuff”. It forces me to focus each week on learning to wait. To anticipate. To revel in the beauty of hope.
Here’s what I have learned about the traditional advent symbolism: it begins with an evergreen wreath… the symbol of a circle of eternity. Our Christ is timeless. He’s been around much longer than the babe in the manger. Surrounding the wreath are four candles and one central candle. Each candle is lit on the four Sundays of Advent, and culminate with the lighting of the white, central candle, which is lit on Christmas eve. This central candle is sometimes referred to as the Christ candle… and represents His purity and the sacrifice He made for us on the cross.
The first candle is purple. It represents “hope” and the prophecies that Isaiah spoke about when He described the coming of our special Christmas baby. The second purple candle represents love, and is sometimes referred to as the Bethlehem candle or the manger candle. So much love happened in that lowly stable…. I imagine my own beloveds and how the whole world fell away the moment they were born and I saw them for the first time face to face. Can you imagine Mary’s first glance at her special baby? Yup, love for sure. The next candle is pink… and represents joy. It is the shepherd’s candle. It embodies the joy and celebration the shepherds must have felt when they were given the good news that a Saviour had been born! The last candle is also purple and reminds us to be peaceful. This “angel” candle points us to worship, to reflection, and to remember that the season is not about gifts under a tree, but the ultimate gift given to us. The One the angels were made for… simply to worship for eternity.
So… as you prepare for your Christmas season, and you rush out here and there, be reminded of the advent tradition of waiting. Take time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas… Christ’s coming. Anticipate through hope, love, joy and peace, and the pure and holy sacrifice that Christ paid for you. May you be blessed, my beloveds, as we journey towards the holidays together. Take time to rejoice in waiting. Oh… it shall be no easy task! Especially if there are Christmas cookies in the oven! But we can practice it together, shall we?
Want to learn more about Advent? Check out my Pinterest Boards for more ideas on DIY calendars, symbols, studies and more!