The Meaning of Advent.
We celebrate advent because we celebrate Christmas. Is advent some stuffy way of putting off the party? Is it the church’s way of being miserable and making others the same? Certainly not - think of advent calendars filled with chocolate treats.
Advent is a time of hope and expectation, a time of looking forward to Christmas.
We celebrate the birth of Jesus, and we remember the long centuries that God’s people the Jews waited for God’s Messiah or anointed one. The one who would save his people from their sins, and bring a kingdom of justice and peace.
We wait for a few weeks, they waited for centuries.
Advent Sunday marks the beginning of the beginning. The beginning of the story of how God saved his people from their sins, and the beginning of the prophecies from the Old Testament which were fulfilled in Jesus.
Ash Wednesday - which is in Spring in the northern hemisphere - marks the beginning of the end. The end of Jesus's ministry and life on earth, the days before his death. The Church year has two high points - Christmas which comes at the end of Advent, and Easter which comes at the end of Lent. Ash Wednesday is a time when we take God seriously, and Advent Sunday is a time when God takes us seriously.
Advent Sunday is the beginning of the Church's year. Many Churches have an Advent Wreath or Crown with five candles in it. Darrington and Wentbridge Church have advent candles in purple, and the centre candle is white. One purple candle is lit on Advent Sunday, then one additional purple candle is lit on each Sunday in Advent, and at Christmas the white candle in the middle is lit as well. It is decorated with greenery.
The Old Testament is the Jewish Bible, and in the last sections of it religious men and women inspired by God prophesied about the coming of God's Messiah. They were people with funny names like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Micah, Hosea and Malachi. The Jews who lived in Israel were fed up with being invaded by outsiders, and looked back to the great days when Israel was rule by King David and Solomon after him. They prophesied that a Messiah would be born in David's town, Bethlehem, and would be a descendant of King David. They looked forward to the day when God would free his people from foreign invaders, the latest of which were the Romans. One prophet wrote about a virgin giving birth, another about how God's servant would suffer for his people, but when Mary became pregnant without having sex, even though an angel Gabriel told her what God wanted, and she said that was okay by her, even after Jesus was born the Jewish people found it all a bit much. Jesus was born in David's town of Bethlehem where Mary and Joseph had to go for a Roman census. Afterwards King Herod questioned the (three) Kings (Magi) and found out from them when the boy was born and killed them, but Mary and family escaped to Egypt. When Jesus grew up he wasn't the kind of Messiah that the Jews were expecting. He is a surprising figure, and the Gospels in the New Testament tell us more about him.
.Each day in Advent we open another door or window in the advent calendar. We tick off another day lived or worked, and celebrate one day nearer christmas presents, christmas dinner and christmas holidays. Maybe christmas is too long, but the shops stock cards, presents and decorations months before advent begins. We can hardly complain about 4 weeks of preparation when our society has cards in the shops in August. Each day though our hearts focus on God, instead of ourselves.