Friday, December 1, 2023

Welcome to Advent

Dear friends (and those who may have stumbled upon this blog),

If you've joined me for any of the past fourteen years, then you are probably familiar with Advent. If you are a new reader, this will serve as an introduction:

In latin the word "adventus" means "coming." Within the context of western Christianity, Advent is the season of four weeks leading up to Christmas—the celebration of Christ's birth. It is a time of joyful expectation and preparation. The four weeks are marked by the four Sundays, on which the candles of the Advent wreath are lit.

The first candle is traditionally the candle of Hope, followed by Peace, Love, and Joy. However, with so many church traditions comes a variety of names for each candle. Usually, they are organized around characters or themes as a way to unfold the story and direct attention to the celebrations and worship in the season. So, the sequence might be Prophets, Bethlehem, Shepherds, Angels; Expectation, Annunciation, Proclamation, Fulfillment; or Prophets, John the Baptist, Mary, the Magi.

Last year, I borrowed four themes from writer Jessica Herberger and explored the themes of Wait, Anticipate, Prepare, and Celebrate. Thinking about from where we glean Advent themes, I began reflecting on the names we call Jesus. Names like Good Shepherd and Emmanuel clearly resonate within the Nativity story. But what if I took my exploration a step farther? Of course, there is nothing new under the sun and I quickly found Advent writers who had tackled this exact topic. There are so many relevant names to reflect on, so I am letting Isaiah 9:6 be my guide. This year, my four Advent candles will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. Within each week, I will incorporate other names as well, as subcategories of Christ’s character.

The way the four Sundays of Advent fall this year, week four will land on Christmas Eve. I want to give “Prince of Peace” it’s due exploration, so I hope you will join me for the remainder of the Christmas week.

A second caveat: the traditional candles of Advent represent a rough chronology of the Nativity story and the prophecies leading up to Jesus’ birth. My use of the four names in Isaiah 9 will make that a little less possible. My hope is that you are familiar enough with the Christmas story to follow my jumps through the Advent narrative.

For four short weeks every year, we stop and see—with amazing clarity—God’s miraculous hand shaping the trajectory of human history. I have a hard time seeing this kind of perspective in daily life. Even with God’s sustaining grace, I am so often numb to the repercussions of Christ’s advent in my own life. This blog is an attempt to peel back the layers of those truths and meditate on the everlasting love God showed when he sent us His son. And as we do that together, may our hearts be directed towards the greater Advent still to come.

Let us enter this season with expectation, ever blessed by those who have paved the way. I’m glad you have chosen to join me on the journey!


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