It’s hard for me to believe that today is December 1st. Where did the year go? It’s also hard to believe that today is the first day of Advent. Advent is a season of the church year (it’s the beginning of the Christian year) that calls Christians to prepare and wait. It’s a solemn season. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning coming or arrival. During the four weeks of Advent, we wait and prepare for Christmas. We wait and prepare for the coming of the Messiah. During Advent, we prepare for the birth of the Messiah– the Christ child born in Bethlehem (his first Advent). We also prepare for his return at the end of time (his second Advent). During Advent we focus on Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace. We focus on preparation and expectation and the light of Christ.
I like to celebrate Advent with an Advent wreath. My advent wreath is simple– a round evergreen wreath with four candles around the wreath– one to be lit on each Sunday in Advent. Each candle has its own symbolism. There are three purple candles (for a time of preparation) and one pink, or rose candle, which symbolizes joy (it is lit during the 3rd week). A white candle in the center, to signify Christ, will be lit on Christmas Eve.
Today, the first day of Advent, one purple candle is lit. It is the candle of Hope. What is hope? The Merriam-Webster definition of hope is: to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true, or the feeling of wanting something to happen and thinking that it could happen : a feeling that something good will happen or be true.
Sometimes, I confess, it is very difficult to find hope in this day and age. It’s difficult when our world is filled with so much violence and hatred. We can’t turn the TV on or look at the newspaper without being overwhelmed and bombarded with all the “bad” in the world. The economy is bad. Jobs are hard to come by. Depression is at an all time high. Marriages fail. Children are abused. People are murdered. Robberies. Home invasions. Homelessness. The world just seems to be a crazy, busy mess sometimes.
Everyone needs hope in their hearts. We hope that there is more to life beyond our present day-to-day activities and practices. With hope in God, there will be blessings far greater than any of us can ever even imagine. It’s hope that keeps us going. Only God has the power to fuel our hope and keep it alive. Material things will wither away, but not God. He will be faithful to us always.
We light the hope candle today and it’s like light shining in the darkness. And we celebrate this beginning of Advent… with the hope we have in that small baby birthed by a virgin in a stable in Bethlehem.
The Lord is good to those who hope in him, to those who seek him.~Lamentations 3:25