The four weeks of advent begin today. Tradition has it that a Lutheran Pastor in Germany in the 19th century began the custom of the Advent candles while working with children at a mission school. During Advent, children would ask daily whether Christmas had arrived. So he built a wooden ring of 24 red candles and 4 white candles. A small candle was lit every day and a white candle lit every Sunday in anticipation for the birth of Christ!
The candles have come to mean a variety of different things over the centuries. Some traditions symbolize the candles as “expectation”, “hope”, “joy” and “purity”. Others have symbolized the candles as “hope”, “love”, “joy” and “peace”. Over the next few weeks, we will prepare for the advent season by exploring the symbolic themes of those advent candles.
The candle of HOPE
The candle of LOVE
The candle of JOY
The candle of PEACE
Hope is a funny thing. It is what keeps a sports fan cheering for their team season after season, because with each new season there is a renewed hope of something better and greater than the previous season. As a Vikings fan, I know this hope far too well. The team has been in existence for 57 years, without a single Super Bowl title to speak of. Yet year after year, I found myself waiting with eager anticipation for the start of the football season. I found every reason to justify that hope, and ignored every glaring sign of flaw. And year after year, without fail, my football team disappointed me by failing to live up to my expectations!
The hope of Jesus however is a hope that we can trust. It is a hope that has been secured for us! There have been seasons in my life where nothing seemed to be working out for me. I lost all my friends, and switched majors to something that didn’t make my parents particularly fond of me! I felt like I was disappointing everybody and that I was just being burdensome. I had little hope in my life. But then I was reminded one day of the eternal hope that we have in Christ Jesus. A hope that extends beyond the circumstances of this life!
I have found that in moments of great difficulty, pondering on the eternal hope of Christ has brought great comfort and reassurance! May we all ponder the hope we have in Jesus this Christmas season!