The Season of Advent
Rev. Rebecca Mihm
Each year the Church talks about the season of Advent. What exactly is Advent? Why is it important? Why do we celebrate it? How does observing it affect our spiritual walk with God?
What is Advent?
The term “Advent” comes from the Latin word adventus which means “coming.” Advent is about the “coming” of Christ. It’s about the days of watching and waiting for Christ to come. We look back and remember Jesus’ first coming to this earth and all that represents to us. We also look forward to Christ’s second coming and all that represents to us, though Christ’s second coming does not always get as much focus as Christ’s first. We are currently observing the season of Advent. The season of Advent is observed worldwide beginning four Sundays before Christmas Day.
In worship services, during the Season of Advent, we light candles on the Advent wreath to symbolize the coming light of Christ. As Christmas gets nearer and nearer, more candles are lit to represent the time of Christ drawing nearer. There are five candles on the wreath: three purple candles, one pink candle, and one larger white candle. Each candle represents a different focus in our observance and has corresponding Scripture verses which can vary from year to year.
Let’s look at each of our candles and its focus.
The first Sunday after Thanksgiving (last Sunday) is the first Sunday of Advent when we light a purple candle and read Scripture that usually comes from one of the prophets talking about the Messiah to come. The Scripture reading’s focus is on the hope that Christ brings.
During the time of Jesus’ birth, life was difficult for the Jewish people. Rome was in power, and life was oppressive. God had prophesied through the prophets that a Messiah would come and redeem God’s people. So, the people were watching and waiting for the Messiah to come. Because the people knew that the Messiah would come, they had hope. Hope combats despair, is stronger than fear, and makes all the difference in how we live our lives. Hope is when we know that something better is coming.
The second Sunday of Advent is when we light another purple candle and read Scripture. Two candles are now lit, representing last week’s hope candle and this week’s peace candle. When we experience hope, an excitement floods our hearts and opens the way for us to experience peace, which is the focus of this week. We acknowledge that God is in control and has a plan that allows us to rest in our hope. If you ask me, that reminds me of the part of a movie when Clint Eastwood, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Sylvester Stallone walks onto the set. There is hope that they will show up as life was bleak and filled with suffering and pain. Now that they have shown up, we know how things are going to end. As the Christmas carol/poem says, “The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to men” (I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow). So there is relief. There is rest. God is with us, he has a plan, and things will be ok.
The third Sunday of Advent is when we light the pink candle and read Scripture. Three candles are now lit—two purple and one pink—representing hope, peace, and joy. The reason why we have a pink candle this week, changing from the purple candles, is because the focus of this week is joy. Once you have hope and peace, the next result is joy! We will be ok, and more than ok, and because of Christ, life will soon be glorious!
The fourth Sunday of Advent is when we light the last purple candle. Four candles are now lit—three purple and one pink—and we read Scripture. When we experience hope, peace, and joy, we can’t help but to experience love… and not just the warm fuzzy feeling of love, but our lives yielding actions of love in response to the grace and mercy God has shown to us.
On Christmas Eve we light the big white candle, along with the four other candles. We read Scripture, and focus on Christ’s birth. At the time of Jesus’ birth, there hadn’t been a word from God (prophecy) in 400 years. Then the Word of God (Jesus, the prophesied Messiah) became flesh and dwelt among us. Our hope, peace, and joy arrived in the person of Jesus being born in Bethlehem of Judea! Hallelujah! Glory to God in the highest heaven
Advent is a season where we spend time in self-reflection, repentance, and preparing our hearts to observe Christ’s first coming. We also are to prepare our hearts for Christ’s second coming. Advent is also a season of watching and waiting. As we watch and wait to celebrate Christmas and Christ’s return, excitement builds. As we observe the changes of the season with the lighting of the candles that brings more and more light, anticipation grows. Christ is coming! The hope of the world is coming! Let us get ready.
Rev. Rebecca Mihm
Rebecca has served as our Associate Pastor of Discipleship since October 4, 2021. Prior to serving at FPC Lakeland, she served in various ministry roles in West Virginia, Massachusetts, Southeast Asia, and New York. Rebecca went to Geneva College where she earned a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts degree. Upon graduation she worked in urban ministry in New York City. Then she worked for US Airways for several years before sensing a call to go to seminary. She graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and spent several years doing ministry in Southeast Asia. Once in Massachusetts, she worked in Christian education, in crisis services, and with high utilizers of the emergency room. Before coming to FPC Lakeland, Rebecca served a congregation as a solo pastor in West Virginia. Rebecca enjoys hanging out with family and friends, walking/hiking, traveling, eating chocolate, and spoiling her fat cat, Oreo.