What is Advent?
The Christian liturgical calendar developed in the fourth century when the gospel was lost amidst culture wars, politics, and traditionalism. Few people could read the Bible on their own much less afford one -- painstakingly hand copied as they were. Into this fray the Eastern and Western Church developed a liturgy for worship that followed the flow of salvation history. The seasons of Jesus’ light (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany), life (Ash Wednesday, Lent, Easter, Pentecost) and love (Ordinary time) reinforced the finished work of Jesus Christ for all to understand despite education level, race, or economic status.
These seasons still have value for us today. While nearly all of us can read and gain access to Scripture, we live again in the midst of culture wars, political power grabs, and traditionalism that rob us of the enormous resource the gospel (the gospel means “good news” about what Christ has done) brings for practical living and civil society.
The season of Advent (which begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day) is the Christian’s New Year Celebration! This first season of the Christian year is a time to focus our attention on Jesus Christ’s birth and as well as on his Second Coming when he will return to redeem all of creation and rule with all power and authority. Since we can’t anticipate the day or the hour of Christ’s return, we are filled with both a sense of joyful expectation and humble reverence, with prayer and reflection.
Historically, the primary sanctuary color of Advent is blue or purple, the color of royalty, to welcome the coming King. This symbol points to the important connection between Jesus’ birth and death. The nativity and the incarnation cannot be separated from the crucifixion and the resurrection.
Trinity marks this special season with an Advent devotional guide to use at home and an Advent wreath to build anticipation at worship. The Advent guide will be available on the communion tables. The Advent wreath symbolize the new and everlasting life brought through Jesus Christ. The wreath consists of five candles, four candles around the wreath and one white candle in the center. One candle is lit the first Sunday of Advent, two are lit the second Sunday, and so on. The light progressively reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world that comes into the darkness of our lives to bring newness, life, and hope (Isa 42:6). Each of the candles have a special theme. The first candle is the prophecy candle; the second is the Bethlehem candle; the third is the Angels candle; the fourth is the Shepherd candle; and the center white candle is the Christ candle, lit on Christmas Day.
In addition to the Trinity Advent Guide available in worship, here are several other Advent Devotionals that I would recommend to you.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God is in the Manger, Reflections on Advent and Christmas, Daily scripture and reflections focused on Advent.
- Nancy Guthrie, Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus, 22 readings from Reformed pastors past and present.
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