How did I miss the meaning of Advent as a child?
I grew up surrounded by Catholic teaching and influence in school and Sunday mornings. We had wreaths in each of my classrooms and I remember lighting the candles during Home Room. I remember the 3 purple candles and the pink one which delighted me announcing the arrival of Christmas day only 1 week away. How did I miss the deeper symbolism of this simple wreath?
I’ve been pondering the Advent wreath the past few days and its significance as a symbol in the Christmas season. I am thinking a lot about Christmas this year, mostly because my wee little ones will be showered with gifts, commercials on television, other children talking about jolly old Santa Claus, mall maddness and family members asking “So, what did Santa give you for Christmas?”. As a Jesus-loving father, I want to teach my children about Jesus and instill a deeper appreciation for this mega event in the Christian calendar.
Not having Wikipedia’d the meanings or the symbols, I connected some dots yesterday. Between the Old Testament book of Malachi and the New Testament book of Matthew, there are 400 years of silence. There are 4 candles on an Advent Wreath. The Advent Wreath, giving increasing amounts of light as the candles are lit with each progressive week in the season, symbolize the growing close of the silent period and the arrival of Jesus Messiah, the Light of the World. Just as the world waited in silence and anticipation after the prophets of old announced the coming of Messiah, we engage in an intentional waiting during Advent, remembering each 100 years of silence with one candle. Each 100 years, the darkness grows less and at the end of the wait, the wreath, blazing in full glory announces the gift of Messiah to the family.
I find it very fitting that Christmas is celebrated in winter. In the cold of winter, the earth slumbers, dead, dark and cold, nights growing longer and longer. Christmas reverses that in the seasonal calendar. The Winter Solstice marks the time when the days grow longer, light overcoming darkness. After Christmas is celebrated, light and warmth overcome darkness and cold. I’m sure the Church fathers put much thought into how to mark this incredible moment on the calendar so that everything about it would point to Jesus.
This year, I hope to put an Advent Wreath on the table at dinner and reflect on the prophecies concerning Messiah with my family each day, as we await the symbolic advent of Christ the Messiah this year on Christmas day.
Luke 2:8-14. Jesus Christ, Messiah, the Light of the World.