What is Advent?

Advent is a season of waiting, expecting and hoping. Beginning four Sundays prior to Christmas and ending on Christmas Eve, Advent helps prepare for the coming, or “advent” of the Christ child at Christmas. (The word “advent” comes from a Latin word that means “coming.”)

It is also the start of the church calendar year that helps us to re-tell, re-live and re-enter the Jesus story - from the crowded stable to the empty tomb. 

For hundreds of years, Christians have used an Advent wreath to inspire their hopes for the coming of Christ. By lighting candles and reading Bible verses, we are reminded about the meaning of Christ’s birth and become more excited about his coming in the past, in the future, and in our own lives.

There is no set meaning for the candles of the Advent wreath (except for the middle candle, which always signifies the birth of Jesus the Christ and is often called the Christ Candle). I have seen in churches where the candles point to peace, hope, joy, and love. In other settings they are identified with key figures in the stories of the birth of Jesus, such as the shepherds, the angels, Joseph, and Mary. In another tradition the candles represent prophecy, Bethlehem, angels and shepherds. 

Advent wreaths employ candles with a variety of colors. Some wreaths use all white candles; others use three purple or blue candles, one pink candle, and one white candle in the middle. I share an understanding of the Advent wreath with many Christians for whom the purple candles remind us of how serious and solemn God’s people have been in waiting for the Messiah. The pink signifies the joy of our waiting. 

The joy of waiting? Most of us are not very good at it. It feels too much like doing nothing, and we are the driven ones who take pride in being busy. And yet the waiting is essential. For it’s in the waiting that our soul grows quiet and contemplative and cultivates a capacity for awareness by which we can discern what God is doing when he does act.

"When God broke into history decisively through the Incarnation, who discerned it? Not the Pharisees whose religious movement was loudly predicting that God was about to act. Not the scribes and priests who were the professional experts in prophetic scripture. Instead it was pagan stargazers and peasant shepherds who discerned what God was doing. They were not the experts and they were not the reactionaries at the loud center of religious noise; they were quiet people on the silent edges of contemplative thought." Brian Zahnd blog 11/25/2016

To help you observe Advent in a richer, more meaningful way, below is a selection of Scriptures to help you re-enter and re-enter the beauty of the Gospel story. 

November
27      Isaiah 40 & Matthew 1-2
28      Isaiah 41 & Matthew 3
29      Isaiah 42 & Matthew 4
30      Isaiah 43 & Matthew 5

December
1        Isaiah 44 & Matthew 6
2        Isaiah 45 & Matthew 7
3        Isaiah 46 & Matthew 8
4        Isaiah 47 & Matthew 9-10
5        Isaiah 48 & Matthew 11
6        Isaiah 49 & Matthew 12
7        Isaiah 50 & Matthew 13
8        Isaiah 51 &  Matthew 14
9        Isaiah 52 & Matthew 15
10      Isaiah 53 & Matthew 16
11      Isaiah 54 & Mark 1-2
12      Isaiah 55 & Mark 3
13      Isaiah 56 & Mark 4
14      Isaiah 57 & Mark 5
15      Isaiah 58 & Mark 6
16      Isaiah 59 & Mark 7
17      Isaiah 60 & Mark 8
18      Isaiah 61 & Luke 1-2
19      Isaiah 62 & Luke 3-4
20      Isaiah 63 & Luke 5
21      Isaiah 64 & Luke 6
22      Isaiah 65 & Luke 7
23      Isaiah 66 & Luke 8

Christmas Eve      Isaiah 9:1-7 & Luke 2:1-20
Christmas Day     Isaiah 11:1-9 & Matthew 2:1-12

May this Advent help prepare you to discern what God is about to do in your life and in our world.