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December 2, 2016

Experiencing Advent

“And again, Isaiah says, ‘The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in Him.’ May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:12-13 (NIV)

“Is it Christmas yet?”  If you have small children, I know you’ve heard that!  The anticipation of Christmas fills their hearts with so much excitement they can hardly wait. That was the motivation behind the first Christmas Advent Wreath.  The idea dates back to 1839 in Hamburg, Germany, conceived by Johann Hinrich Wichern.  He was the founder of a home for poor children.  During the weeks that led up to Christmas, the kids were constantly asking, “Is it Christmas yet?”  So, Johann built a wooden circle out of a cart wheel and topped it with 19 small red candles and four tall white candles.  Each day, he would light an additional candle, saving the white candles for Sundays.

Advent comes from the Latin word, “adventus”, meaning “coming.” The Advent wreath is a Christian tradition that symbolizes the passage of the four weeks of Advent preparing for Christmas.  For many centuries, Advent was a season of spiritual preparation before the celebration of Christmas.  It wasn’t focused so much on the story of the birth of Christ and the singing of carols.  Instead, Advent is a time of reflection, repentance and spiritual preparation, much like the prophets of the Old Testament and John the Baptist proclaimed as we prepare for the Messiah to come.  These four Sundays are designed to take us on a journey to a time before the first coming of Christ.  Ever since the first prophecy of a coming child that would crush the head of the serpent that deceived Eve in the garden of Eden, and the promise given to Abraham of a child through his family line that would bless the world, people lived in the hope and anticipation of a coming Messiah, a redeemer who would deliver us from the bondage of sin and reconcile us to God.

Each candle on the Advent Wreath holds special significance in preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ. The first candle has been called the “prophecy candle” or the candle of hope.  The prophets declared a message of hope for the coming of Christ.  Nearly 750 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah predicted His coming.  In fact, Isaiah speaks more about the Messiah than does any other Old Testament prophet.  Referring to one of his prophecies, the Apostle Paul wrote,

“And again, Isaiah says, ‘The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in Him.’ May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:12-13 (NIV) 

Whether you practice the tradition of Advent or not, this promise offers hope that the coming of Christ will fill our hearts with joy and peace as we put our trust in Him.  Because of Jesus, we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Do you have this hope?  You can.  How?  Put your trust in Him today.  Invite Christ to rule and reign in your heart and experience the advent of Jesus!