Advent candles may be lit
each week leading up to
Advent is about a calendar with chocolates in it, and counting down to Christmas... isn’t it?
Well, the second part is right! It’s a month-long season in the Christian year which leads up to Christmas and the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
Advent is from a Latin word meaning ‘coming’, because Christians believe that Jesus’ birth is all about God becoming present in the world in a real, visible way.
Through the way he lived, Jesus demonstrated what God is like, which is as much about love, compassion and generosity as it is about power and judgment.
Important advent ideas and images include darkness and light, death and life, wrong and right. December in the UK means short, cold days and long nights, the beginning of winter when plants die back, some animals hibernate, and birds migrate to warmer, better places. It symbolises very well the darkness and difficulty that life contains, affecting us all at some time or another. We all face death, and even in life we give and receive hurts through our actions, or our inaction, through selfishness, or the mystery of innocent suffering.
Advent, however, is about hope, the sense that behind our beautiful but seriously damaged world there is a God who cares and acts, and is involved. That’s why candles play a big part in advent services: ‘It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness’—a slogan used by Amnesty International.
Judgment, however, is also an advent theme. We think about Jesus’ second coming at the end of time, which is one way of saying that we will all die, and face God one day. The way we live our lives has consequences, good or bad. If we fail to live the way Jesus lived, then our relationship with God and with each other is damaged or broken. Judgment is something we do to ourselves, through our choices and behaviour. Advent is an opportunity to pause and reflect on the way we live our lives and relate to each other, to our world, and to God.
Climate change and environmental issues show just what a mess we are making of our world—the only one we have—and the media constantly report the damage that humanity is inflicting on itself. What do your mind, heart and spirit say about the state of your life, the only one you have?
We should address these issues throughout the year, but advent is a great opportunity to take stock, especially in the light of the Christmas message—that God entered creation as a human being, to help us deal with the mess, and offer hope. Since Christianity is based on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, it makes sense to start each year by preparing for his birth.
Do you need a fresh start, a new birth? We all need to learn from our past, so that our futures may be better. If we can acknowledge our mistakes and admit our weaknesses, then there is the possibility of change—especially if we bring God into the situation.
Pray: Lord, amid the detail of my life, help me to find the will and the time to reflect, and to meet with you. Help me to think seriously about where my life is going, and what should change. Amen.
Look up Advent in Wikipedia
Read about the season of advent
Smile: help your children to make an advent paper chain
tell a friend about
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