Advent is one of my favorite times of the year.
The weeks leading up to Christmas give us a perfect opportunity to focus on the importance of Christ’s coming to Earth at Christmas. It’s a time on the church calendar that, much like Lent, is meant to be a season of fasting and reflection.
We do a lot of different Advent activities at our house, but one of my favorites is lighting the candles in our Advent wreath and singing some of the songs that are particularly for the Advent season. If you’re not familiar with the Advent wreath (or maybe if you need a little refresher), each candle represents a particular aspect of the season.
The first week of Advent has a purple candle (which represents prayer and sacrifice in the liturgical church) and its theme is Hope. The Prophet’s Candle — sometimes just called the Hope Candle — reminds us that Jesus was promised to us early in the Bible, long before He came. Some Bible verses we read during this week are Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 11, Isaiah 61, and Mark 1:1-3. As Christians today, we don’t have to wait in the hope of Jesus’ first coming like the people of Israel did, but we do wait eagerly for His return.
The second week has another purple candle and its theme is Faith. This candle is sometimes also called the Bethlehem Candle, and if you think about the faith Mary and Joseph both had to have, you can probably see why they go together. That said, there are so many stories of faith that are part of the Christmas story, you don’t have to stop with Mary and Joseph. Begin earlier and read about Elizabeth and Zechariah and continue on with John the Baptist. Or, spend some time in the book of Hebrews reading about the faith of the forefathers.
In week three, we have a pink candle to represent the theme of Joy. This is also sometimes called the Shepherd’s Candle. Psalm 80:1-3 and Isaiah 40:11 are great verses to read and meditate on during this week. Or you can spend time in the entire book of Philippians, which is sometimes referred to as the book of joy.
Finally, in week four we light our last purple candle, the theme this week is love (sometimes also called the Angel’s Candle.) The birth, life, and death of Christ is the truest demonstration of love that we will ever see. Good verses to read are many, but some I particular love are Ezekiel 34:15-16, Lamentations 3:31-33, and John 3:16-21.
Some Advent calendars include the Christ candle, which is lit on Christmas day and reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world, come to save us from the darkness.
My two favorite Advent hymns are Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus and O Come, O Come Emmanuel. There are many others, but I always seem to come back to those two.
Beyond our advent candles, we have a 24-day countdown Advent calendar that has little books. Each day’s reading tells a portion of the story of Christ’s birth, beginning with the prophecies in Isaiah and continuing through the conception and birth of John the Baptist until we finally reach Jesus’ birth.
And, of course, we have chocolate count-down calendars — because what is sweeter in the life of a believer than the fact that our Savior came to Earth as a baby, fully human and yet fully divine, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross so that He could be resurrected and conquer sin and death for any who would believe?
Do you have any favorite Advent traditions?