I did not grow up following the Church calendar. We attended a non-denominational church that was not traditional in its practices. One of the things I treasure about being United Methodist is the church calendar and all the practices that go with following it. This Sunday we begin the season of Advent. This is a period for anticipating and longing for Jesus' return. Advent is both a period of preparation for both “advents” or arrivals of Jesus.
The first arrival was His birth, and the second arrival will be when He returns one day for the Church. During Advent we light a candle on an Advent wreath during worship each week. Every Sunday represents one word describing what Jesus’ arrival brings to this earth.
The first week is Hope. We need hope because we see so much injustice in our world. The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. We light a candle to remind ourselves that Jesus is our hope and one day He will restore all justice.
The second week of Adent is the candle of Love. We know we need God’s love more than ever as we are surrounded by conversations that are laced with conflict and bitterness. We light the candle to remember that it is God’s love that breaks into this world and brings change.
The third week and third candle is Joy. This is the pink candle. We are surrounded by people who suffer with grief, people who dread the holidays because of painful memories, or because they don't want to spend another Christmas alone. The candle of joy reminds us that God will bring joy to replace the sadness.
Finally on the fourth week of Advent, which is also Christmas Eve this year, we will light the candle of Peace. With the conflict in Gaza and the war in Ukraine, we need to be reminded that the peace of God is coming.
On Christmas Eve we will light the Christ candle. It is the light that illuminates the world, on earth just as it is in heaven! Sometimes the words of peace and love are changed out for different weeks, yet still the calendar guides us through the season so that we stay connected to Jesus and His work here on earth.
To help us all remain in the Spirit of Advent, we will be passing out an Advent devotional for the adults this Sunday and an Advent Activity book for the kids. It is our prayer that this Advent season will be full of the light of Christ in your life.