Celebrating the Lord's advent
By By The Rev. Philip Wottrich
Dec. 9, 2000
To "celebrate" means to recall and relive special occasions and, in doing so, to solemnize and honor them. Dec. 3 marked the beginning of the Advent season this year, a season celebrated by Christians for almost 1,500 years.
Advent is a season of preparation. Originating in France in the early Christian era, Advent was generally observed throughout Christendom by the time of the Council of Tours in 563 A.D.
By the time of the middle ages Advent was almost universally recognized and observed by the Church as the first season of the liturgical church-year.
The word "advent" literally means "coming." During this season, Christians celebrate Christ's three-fold coming.
In celebrating the initial advent of our Lord, Christians remember the coming of the Christ-child in the Bethlehem manger. Here Christ's advent humility took the world by surprise as God enwrapped himself in the frail flesh of an infant.
From heav'n above to earth I come
To bring good news to everyone!
Glad tiding of great joy I bring
To all the world, and gladly sing:
To you this night is born a Child
Of Mary, chosen virgin mild;
This newborn Child of lowly birth
Shall be the joy of all the earth!
His second advent is greeted anew every time Christians gather in his name. "Where two or three are gathered in My Name, I am there in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20). This present advent recurs even today through God's continued coming in word and sacrament.
O dearest Jesus, Holy child,
Prepare a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for Thee!
Christ's third advent is celebrated in the anticipation of his triumphant return. Then Christ will come in unveiled glory. "Then shall they see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory" (Mark 13:26).
As mighty judge on clouds of night
Again You'll come in glory bright
And all Your people then unite
To be with You in heav'nly light.
In view of our Lord's three-fold advent, this is a season of preparation, anticipation, repentance, hope, and great joy. Individuals, families, and congregations slow their pace to share and enjoy the advent blessings of our God. After all, there is no better way to prepare for our Lord's coming than by remembering, sharing, and rejoicing in his continuing blessings!
Christians individually take time for personal Bible study and prayer. Families come together for special celebrations and devotions. And in our congregations, the season is observed with festivities that are simply divine!
Many advent celebrations take place around the advent wreath. The advent wreath is rich in tradition and symbolism. Here we are reminded of God's eternal love. The decorative cedar, pine, holly, and evergreens remind us of the new life we have in Jesus Christ. Each candle holds special significance.
The first candle to be lighted, a purple candle, is called "The Prophecy Candle." This candle reminds us of the period when God's people waited for "the Desire of all nations" to come. In doing this it calls us to continue in the Christian faith and persevere in Christian hope. Long ago, God spoke in many and various ways to our ancestors by the prophets. But now, in these last days, he has spoken to us by his son!
The second candle, also purple, is "The Bethlehem Candle." This candle reminds us that God entered into our world at a specific place and time to accomplish salvation for us, to work in us repentance and new life in Christ.
The third candle, pink (because of the anticipated joy), is called "The Shepherds' Candle." When the shepherds beheld the Christ child that first Noel, they couldn't help but share the Good News with others. We, too, are given a glimpse into the manger that we might go and do likewise.
The fourth candle, again purple, is "The Angels' Candle." With the angelic hosts of heaven we burst forth in praise to God, singing, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill to you!"
The Christ candle stands in the wreath's center, reminding us that Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, stands alone, the center of the salvation of our Lord. A testimony to his purity and innocence is made by this pure white candle.
Purple is widely used as the seasonal color during Advent symbolizing both royalty and penitence. Using ancient techniques royal purple required the most costly of primitive dyes. In more recent years blue, representing anticipation and hope, has been gaining favor as the seasonal color of Advent.
Advent, then, is a celebrative symphony of the senses: sight and sound in color and music, the taste of God's grace, the fresh aroma of its newness, the touch of the newborn. Joy to the world!
Celebrate our Lord's Advent! Oh, come all ye faithful! Taste and see that the Lord is good!
The Rev. Philip Wottrich is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, a multiracial congregation that celebrates Christian unity amidst cultural diversity. The church encourages the community to join them for any of their services, including their special Wednesday evening Advent Devotionals on Dec. 13 and 20, at 7. Trinity Lutheran is located at 4805 Highway 39 North, across from Alliance Health Center.