Last week, here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, we marked the end of the Christian Liturgical year with a sermon focusing on “Christ the King.” This Sunday we begin the New Liturgical Year, traveling towards Christmas, and celebrating the four Sundays of Advent. On December 3 @10:00 am we will be looking at verses from Psalm80:1-6,17-18 and meeting around a table laid with bread and wine.
Not long after Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern seaboard there was a story on the national news about a man in a Santa suit causing quite a stir on the streets of New York as he handed out $100 bills to people most impacted by that devastating Hurricane. When a news reporter asked him why he was doing it, he said “The ravages of the storm are not as strong as the hope in people’s spirit.” He knew that recovery from the hurricane was primarily about hope.
Advent, from the Latin word “adventus” meaning arrival, is the 4-week period prior to Christmas. It is a time to wonder about the great sacrifice that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, made for us by coming to earth as an infant. Scripture teaches us that He lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death, and rose from the grave. One of the core beliefs of Christian faith is that because of His awesome death-defying love, all people are invited and welcomed into the family of God through their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
An advent wreath can be a teaching tool and a reminder for Christians of the true meaning of Christmas. Traditionally, the Advent wreath symbolizes the passage of the four weeks of Advent. It is typically a circular candle holder that holds five candles. During the season of Advent one candle on the wreath is lit each Sunday until all of the candles, including the fifth candle, are lit on Christmas Day.
Each candle customarily represents an aspect of the spiritual preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Most Advent wreaths use three colors of candles – purple, pink, and white. However, some may use blue in place of the purple. The first candle, often known as the “Prophecy Candle” or “Candle of Hope,” is lit to remind us that we can have hope, because God is faithful and will keep the promises made to us. Our hope comes from God!
In the biblical book of Romans Paul writes; “Isaiah says, ‘The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in Him.’ May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:12-13)
I like those words of the mysterious New York Santa in response to tragedy. “The ravages of the storm are not as strong as the hope in people’s spirit.” When the hope in our spirit is harnessed to our hope in God, hope truly can be a trans-formative experience. May “Hope” be a part of our advent journey as we travel towards our celebration of God's greatest gift.
For some music, a beautiful song of hope, composed by Michael Joncas; “On Eagles Wings.”
The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D