Anytime you receive a guest into your house, there is nearly always a couple of panicked hours of sweeping, cleaning dishes and generally preparing for their arrival. Their level of cleaning can sometimes indicate the importance of the guest. For my mother? A thorough cleaning and white glove treatment. My best mate? Dirty laundry off the floor is sufficient.
But Advent is the time of preparation for the most important guest. The word itself is Latin for ‘coming’. We wait in celebration of the Nativity and the second coming of Christ. We prepare ourselves through various traditions that keep our minds centered on his coming and the reason for his coming. Here are some of the most typical traditions we see during the Advent time of year.
Arguably, the most recognizable symbol of advent is the wreath. The wreath itself is a symbol of eternity; the unending love we receive from the Lord. On the wreath are placed four candles. There are typical colors that are associated with each candle, but this varies from tradition to tradition. Most everyone agrees that the final candle, should be white. If you’re doing this at home, and don’t have access to candles that are the exact colors, use the ones that are available to you.
- The first candle symbolizes hope and is called the Prophets candle.
- The second is faith and is called the Bethlehem Candle.
- The third is joy and called the Shepherd’s candle.
- The third is peace and called the Angels candle.
- The fifth represents light and purity and is called Christ’s candle. It is placed in the middle and is lit on Christmas Day.
What each candle represents from can very due to tradition. Each week one of the candles is lit and the last on Christmas Day. The wreath and candles are the most widely recognized symbol for Advent.
The Advent Calendar
We have all seen the Advent calendars they have in stores in which each door is filled with chocolate. Everyone loves a little bit of chocolate to brighten their day, but Advent calendars can be used for so much more. Make your own Advent calendar and fill it with all sorts of goodies. It can be filled with pieces of scripture, or a list of things to be thankful for, and maybe even a family event to go to on weekends. It is important that we get past the marketing of Christmas and remind ourselves and our families of the real reason we celebrate.
When Jesus came, he did not come to live his own life, his reason for being here was not come to be a master carpenter, nor to be the finest florist in all the land. He came solely for us. He came to wash away the old sins of man. He came to show us a way of being that will lead us into eternal life. Advent is a wonderful time to remind ourselves of that. We remind ourselves that just as Jesus spent his time here focused on lifting up the people around him, we can do the same thing. It may in small ways, such as buying a homeless person a coffee or giving a hug to someone when it is sorely needed. It may be in bigger ways, such as participating in a soup kitchen or donating to a local charity. No matter how big or small it is, it is the action itself that is most important.
Contact an organization you would like to volunteer at and go every weekend. Most cities have websites dedicated to volunteer opportunities. You might find you like it and continue throughout the whole year.
With these three ideas, you are sure to have a successful advent and make an impact on the lives of those around you.