Spirit Food - December 2018

December 8, 2018

 

                                                                  THE FOUR WEEKS OF ADVENT

 

Merriam-Webster defines Advent as:

Definition of Advent 

 

1: the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas and observed by some Christians as a season of prayer and fasting

 

2a: the coming of Christ at the Incarnation

 

2b: SECOND COMING

 

You see before you what is known as the Advent wreath, and is thus explained:

 

 

 

On it, you will see 5 candles; 3 purple, one pink and one white.

The four candles on the Advent wreath represent Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.  The fifth candle, placed in the center of the wreath, represents the light of Christ (our redeemer) come into the world.

The color purple symbolizes Almighty God’s royalty (and tradition indicates penance).  The color pink (or rose) symbolizes joy.

During the first two weeks of Advent we light the first two purple candles, representing Hope and Peace.  The Third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday.  On this day we celebrate that our waiting for the birth of Jesus on Christmas day is almost over.  Rose is a liturgical color that is used to signify joy, so we light the single pink candle on the third Sunday of Advent.

Then on the fourth Sunday of Advent, (according to tradition), the final purple candle is lit symbolizing Love, to mark the final week of prayer and penance as we wait expectantly for the soon-coming birth of the King of Kings.

Traditionally, each of the four Advent candles has a deeper meaning:

 

The 1st Sunday Candle of Advent symbolizes Hope with the “Prophet’s Candle” reminding us that Jesus is coming.

The prophet Isaiah lived in a time when his people worried about their future, their families, and their relationship with God.  In the midst of their uncertainty and fear, Isaiah proclaimed hope, peace, love, and light. 

It is important to remember that in the Old Testament, the Israelite's sins were covered by the blood of animals once a year on the Day of Atonement. 

  • The Day of Atonement is still recognized today on the calendar as Yom Kippur.  It started on September 18th at 6 p.m. and ended at 6 p.m. on September 19th.  The Jewish day starts at 6 p.m. as they are taught to rest before they work.

In the New Testament, the work of Jesus dying on the cross paid the price for all mankind’s sin, past, present and future!  This is a part of the good news of the gospel of Christ!  Mankind only has to receive and believe it!

The 1st Sunday of Advent is a reminder of the fact that Jesus came and to reflect upon the hope the Israelites had of His coming.

Today, we as Christians who believe in Jesus have the Blessed Hope of Him returning to rapture us!

Titus 2:13 - while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

  • The blessed hope is that Jesus is coming back for us (those who believe)!

 

The 2nd Candle of Advent symbolizes peace, and by tradition is again purple.

Peace. Peace that truly passes understanding.  

 

This peace is what the period of Advent wants to offer.  Advent actually shouts, announcing this peace.  Peace coming upon us regarding the pain, loss, fear and hate we experience.  Christmas brings a peace that we only find because God refuses to stay aloof amid the pain, fear and hurt. God came into the midst of this hurting world.  Why?  To bring a peace.

 

Most know that the Hebrew word shalom is understood around the world to mean "peace." However, "peace" is only one small part of the meaning. "Shalom" is used to both greet people and to bid them farewell, and it means much more than "peace, hello or goodbye"....

Shalom is a feeling of contentment, completeness, wholeness, well being and harmony.

 

According to Strong’s Concordance 7965 Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.

Shalom comes from the root verb shalom meaning to be complete, perfect and full. In modern Hebrew the obviously related word Shelem means to pay for, and Shulam means to be fully paid.

The word shalom is a mighty blessing on several levels!

 

The 3rd Candle of Advent symbolizes joy, and is pink or rose.

 

Our week begins with “Gaudete Sunday.” Gaudete means “rejoice” in Latin.  It comes from the first word of the Entrance antiphon on Sunday.  The spirit of joy that begins this week comes from the words of Paul, “The Lord is near.”  This joyful spirit is marked by the third candle of our Advent wreath.

The second part of Advent begins on December 17th each year.  For the last eight days before Christmas, the plan of the readings changes.  The first readings are still from the prophesies, but now the gospels are from the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke.  We read the stories of faithful women and men who prepared the way for our salvation.  We enter into the story of how Jesus' life began.  These stories are filled with hints of what his life will mean for us.  Faith and generosity overcome impossibility.  Poverty and persecution reveal glory.

Preparing our Hearts and asking for Grace

We prepare this week by feeling the joy.  We move through this week feeling a part of the waiting world that rejoices because our longing has prepared us to believe the reign of God is close at hand.  And so we consciously ask: 

Prepare our hearts 
and remove the sadness 
that hinders us from feeling 
the joy and hope 
which his presence 
will bestow.

Each morning this week, in that brief moment we are becoming accustomed to, we want to light a third inner candle.  Three candles, going from expectation, to longing, to joy.  They represent our inner preparation, or inner perspective.  In this world of “conflict and division,” “greed and lust for power,” we begin each day this week with a sense of liberating joy.  Perhaps we can pause, breathe deeply and say,

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, 
     my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”

Each day this week, we will continue to go through our everyday life, but we will experience the difference our faith can bring to it.  We are confident that the grace we ask for will be given us.  We will encounter sin - in our own hearts and in our experience of the sin of the world.  We can pause in those moments, and feel the joy of the words,

“You are to name him Jesus,  
  because he will save his people  
  from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

We may experience the Light shining into dark places of our lives and showing us patterns of sinfulness, and inviting us to experience God's mercy and healing.  Perhaps we wish to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation this week.  We may want to make gestures of reconciliation with a loved one, relative, friend or associate.  With more light and joy, it is easier to say, “I'm sorry; let's begin again.”

Each night this week we want to pause in gratitude.  Whatever the day has brought, no matter how busy it has been, we can stop, before we fall asleep, to give thanks for a little more light, a little more freedom to walk by that light, in joy.

Our celebration of the coming of our Savior in history, is opening us up to experience his coming to us this year, and preparing us to await his coming in Glory.

Come, Lord Jesus.  Come and visit your people.  
We await your coming.  Come, O Lord.

The third week of Advent is about the joy that is ours because God has entered the world.  Angels heralded the birth of the Messiah and kings came from the east to worship and celebrate at what God had done.

 

We celebrate as well, that God would have a plan for mankind, sending Jesus into our world, broken and marred by sin, to fulfill the law and establish a New Covenant for mankind.  This brings us great comfort and great joy, even as we still live in a world with sorrow and pain, and we look forward having that Blessed Hope, to His return; expecting the great unceasing joy He has promised us!

 

As we reflect on the Joy candle of Advent, let us be mindful of having a good opinion of Our Heavenly Father and comprehending His great love for us!

 

 

The 4th Candle of Advent symbolizes love, and again, it is purple.

 

1 John 4:8 - Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

 

His display of love towards mankind is what the Bible is written about.

 

With this flame, we signify the love of God that surrounds and fills us at all times.  Jesus demonstrated self-giving love in His ministry as the Good Shepherd.  There is no greater power than love.  It is stronger than rulers, stronger than our grief or despair, stronger even than death.  Advent is a time for kindness, thinking of others, and sharing with others.  It is a time to love, as God loved us by giving us His most precious gift.  We love, because God loves us.

 

From the gospel of John 13:34-35 it says – “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

Let us pray – Heavenly Father, teach us to love.  May we always remember to put you first as we follow in Christ’s footsteps, that we may know your love and show it in our lives.  As we prepare for our celebration of Jesus’ birth, fill our hearts with love for the world, that all may know your love and the one whom you have sent, your son, our Savior.  Amen

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