Tis The Season
I have to confess I love everything about the holidays! From the Christmas music on my radio to the pine needles that seem to get stuck in every imaginable place. Today, my home is in a state of flux as we transition it to a Christmas wonderland. I say we because alone I wouldn’t be able to accomplish much, and I wouldn’t have much interest either. The other person in this “we” is my husband. He not only brings in the muscle, he brings on the joy! I can remember my husband and I as we celebrated our first Christmas together, not our first married holiday, our first dating one, because we began our romance in December.
That year, we helped his grandparents decorate their tree, his parent’s tree, my family tree, and the tree in my father’s store where we both worked. But for the first time in my life, I helped his family decorate the tree in the small church they attended. I have always been a fan of Christmas, the secular one, with its gifts, parties, lights, and TV specials, but this was my introduction to a Christian Christmas. To the baby in the manger, to the shepherds and the love that sent Him. Oh, I knew the story, by word of mouth, but not personally. Personally, is where God wants to meet us. It is the whole reason for the season. God sent His Son to earth to meet each one of us right where we live to share a relationship with Him. I found out that you can’t have a relationship with Him if you don’t know Him. John 14:17 tells us, “the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
Up to that point in my life, I only knew of Him, not the actuality of Him. As a traveler in the world, I hadn’t accepted the most important gift ever given. It was that first Christmas with Joe and his family that I learned just what I had been missing. What about you? Have you been celebrating Christ’s birth without accepting the true meaning behind the lights and pine? If you’re not sure, now is the time as you prepare for all the festivities to come. One way you can do that is to add an Advent wreath and candles to your family decorations. The lighting of an Advent wreath is a custom that began in 16th-century Germany among Lutherans and Catholics. The original purpose of the wreath was to bring focus to Christmas, as we eagerly await the coming of Christ.
The traditional symbol of advent season is a pine wreath, with its evergreen branches pointing to our everlasting life to come. Its circle represents the unending love of God. It has 4 candles that represent the light of God coming to a dark and empty world. Three 3 candles in Purple or Blue are set on the branches. It doesn’t matter which color you choose, purple used to be used for Advent because, like Lent, it was a “penitential season.” This would be, like Lent, a time to repent of our sin and focus ourselves more closely on our need for God’s gracious forgiveness.
Since this anticipation is characterized by hope, they selected blue as the new color. Blue is the color of royalty to welcome the king, and it is also a sign of hope. The fourth candle is rose-colored and represents joy (this one is lit in the third week) the joy that the angels proclaimed to the shepherds on that wonderful night. In the center of the wreath, you can place a white candle (called the Christ candle) or a small nativity set of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.
We light one candle each week, starting with the candle of promise. Its glow will symbolize for us the promise of God’s coming messiah; the one who was foretold by the prophet Isaiah in 7:14 “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” He told us to be on the lookout for the baby in a manger, and the one who has promised to return.
Joe and I will begin our Christmas celebration at home this Sunday with our children, and along with putting up what feels like our 100th tree in 33 years, we will light the candle of promise. Read from Isaiah 9:1-7 and keep Christ at the center of our Christmas. Unlike your Christmas tree waiting to be decorated, it may take a few days to get your Advent wreath set up, but celebrating by using it during the weeks before Christmas is an excellent way for Christian families to enjoy the true meaning of Christmas.
Stop back next week when I will share more about the other candles on my Advent wreath in my blog.