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Sunday, December 23, 2012

THE ADVENT OF CHRISTMAS


The Advent of Christmas



“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 
He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made;
without him nothing was made that has been made.”

John 1:1-3



Christmas was celebrated quite differently in Colonial times than it is today. While there may have been festivities in some places, it was generally a religious celebration of the Savior’s birth. In some denominations, then and now, Christmas was also more than one day, it was an entire season.

Advent, which means “to come” would begin the Sunday nearest to November 30th, the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle and be celebrated each Sunday culminating with Christmas Eve/Day, the time of Christ’s birth.

Advent, the beginning of the church calendar is a penitential season of preparation as we wait for the birth of Jesus each year. In colonial times as well as now, it was a time of fasting, prayers, reflection, reading from the Scriptures, and in the Anglican tradition, reading of The Book of Common Prayer.

The Advent wreath originated in Germany among the Lutherans and grew in use throughout the world. The wreath is a circular wreath of evergreens (symbolizing victory and the eternity of God) with four candles, three purple to be lit on the 1st, 2nd and 4th Sundays and a rose candle is to be lit the 3rd Sunday. A white candle, the Christ candle, in the center is lit on Christmas Eve/Day.




“In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”
John 1: 4-5


The colors of the candles have significance. Purple represents repentance and royalty; pink or rose represents joy, and white represents purity and Christ. Each candle has significance, the first Sunday’s candle represents HOPE and the prophecy associated with the coming Christ, the second candle (purple) signifies LOVE. The third candle (pink) signifies JOY, and the fourth candle (purple) signifies PEACE. Some faith traditions use blue candles instead of purple and recognize alternate meanings for the various candles.


“I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12



The season continues after Christmas for another twelve days until Epiphany on January 6th, when the feast of the three kings is celebrated. Epiphany, the coming of foreign kings to worship and give gifts to Jesus, reveals that Christ came not only for the Jews, but for the entire world.



As Advent is celebrated each year at this time, Christians are also awaiting the Second Advent.
We are painfully aware of the sin, evil, disease, and darkness that pervades a broken world rebelling against God. Like those who hoped and long waited the coming of Messiah, we also hope and wait for His return, this time not as the Babe born in a humble manger, but as the King of Glory.

“At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud
with power and great glory.
When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Luke 21:27-28

11 comments:

  1. Amen! Great post, Janet. A powerful message and very interesting to learn of the history of the wreath and the tradition of the candles and Advent. Thank you.

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  2. I love Advent. I am drawn to more traditional, liturgical worship. While many people look at liturgy and the church calendar as too Roman Catholic, there are many Protestant denominations that still follow this tradition. Some of my favorite hymns are Advent hymns too ~ Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Comfort, Comfort Ye My People, Creator of the Stars of Night; there are so many good ones!

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  3. Thank you for this post, Janet. I love the words from "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day"-
    And in despair I bowed my head
    “There is no peace on earth,” I said,
    “For hate is strong and mocks the song
    Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

    Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
    “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
    The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
    With peace on earth, good will to men.”

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    Replies
    1. Susan, thanks for sharing these beautiful words from this Christmas carol.

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  4. Thank you, ladies. I, too, love the Advent season and it helps me to prepare spiritually for Christmas. (But then I also need Lent to truly experience Good Friday and Easter.)

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  5. Janet, an interesting and beautiful post. Blessings to you and your family at Christmastime!

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  6. Thank you, Carrie and Carla. A blessed Christmas to you.

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  7. Janet, yesterday we visited a friend and while the kids were sitting around the table admiring a wreath with candles (and unable to keep their fingers off it), I shared your post.

    My friend, who is German found it interesting, and while her take on it was a little different, it was neat to compare the traditions. I did not grow up with Advent being anything other than a calendar with pictures to count off the days to Christmas. We had our own traditions, but they were much more subtle than many of the mainstream churches' traditions.

    Traditions are such a wonderful way to anchor us and help us to reflect on God's truth. Thank you so much for sharing this. :)

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  8. I agree, Lynn, I love following the church calendar and the meanings behind the different seasons.

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  9. Coming in late here, Janet-- but had to THANK YOU for this lovely presentation about Advent and the Christmas wreath. The wreath (very much like the picture!) sits on my dining room table as we speak--and I've lit the final candle-- the Christ candle for tonight!

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