In the larger Christian church the beginning of a New Year is marked by a season of anticipation. This anticipation is of the birth of Christ and is known as Advent. The word advent comes from Latin, adventus which means coming.
There are slight variations of when this time starts within the Christian church. These variations do not change the meaning. The season is understood as a solemn time for preparation for the mystery of the incarnation. The liturgical color of the season is purple, except on the third Sunday, when it is rose. You will often find these colors represented vestments, stoles, paraments, and flags, but most often in an Advent Wreath.
The wreath itself is represented by evergreen branches symbolize the everlasting life in God. The circle is representative of the unending and eternal nature of God. Each candle marks a time in life all leading to the anticipation of the coming of Christ at Christmas. For the believer today we do celebrate and acknowledge the birth of Christ, but also it takes on new meaning as well as the faithful await the return of Christ.
What is it that we are anticipating this December? Does our excitement come in anticipating sales at retail stores, or a deeply desired gift? It seems as if each year the retail world is trying to tell us that Christmas is all about us, our greed, our desires, our families, our…that is not what it is all about.
Christmas is Jesus Christ. Advent is a prolonged season of anticipation to remind us that Christmas most certainly is not about us but about Jesus. It is about reminding us to celebrate even that which we can’t completely understand. It is tempting to think that we “understand” Christmas. We are to take this time to prepare of the mystery of the incarnation. The incarnation is truly a mystery in many ways. The fullness of God is present in human flesh, born to a virgin, sinless, helpless babe, to live life as a man, tempted in every way, showing us how to live, and then giving his so that we can live abundantly here, and also giving us something to look forward to anticipating our reunion with him.
“Thanks be to God for his indescribable (unspeakable) gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15
It is truly indescribable the great gift we have in this mysterious incarnation. I may never be able to find the right words to describe what is beyond my ability to complete understand. What I do understand is the result of this incarnation allowed me experience the God in a personal and loving way. I also understand that it is because of Christ’s sinless sacrifice that I am given the opportunity to live in relationship with God in this life and beyond. It is truly mysterious, beautiful, marvelous, gracious, and loving.
While we celebrate many things let us be reminded that God made himself personally known in Jesus Christ and that was the greatest gift given to the world.