Advent: 1. The coming or arrival, especially of something extremely important. 2. The liturgical period preceding Christmas, beginning on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, observed by Christians as a season of preparing for the arrival of Jesus. 3. The season of waiting.
“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation…” (Psalm 51:12)
Recently I realised something I’m almost scared to admit. I hate Christmas.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate the meaning of Christmas. It’s just that somewhere in the midst of oversized Santas, fake fir tree garlands, winter-themed decorations (why don’t people realise there’s no snow in Australia in December?) and awful piped Christmas music, I have lost the joy of Christmas. I hate the stress, the materialism, the busy-ness and the whole way our Western cultures focuses on what people “want” for Christmas rather than who we should want at Christmas. The commercialism that is Christmas has taken over from the celebration that should be Christs’ and has reduced it to a mass display of gross consumerism. The obligatory gift buying and gift giving, the crowded shops, the carols, the stressed people, the expectation that I should be full of joy, happiness and Christmas spirit and good cheer makes me exhausted just thinking about it. I have grown tired from the over-familiarity of Christmas and the loss of the sacredness and reverence that should be felt at Christmas.
I have lost Christ in my Christmas.
I’ve been a Christian for 25 years but I haven’t ever worshipped in a traditional mainstream church which means that I have missed learning about and understanding an important traditional Christian season – Advent.
Sure, I’ve heard of Advent. But I thought it was just something my in-laws celebrate at their old-school-style church. I’m actually a bit embarrassed to admit that I thought advent had something to do with those tacky chocolate calendars that I bought for the kids every year when they were little so they could count down the days until Santa arrived!
How wrong I have been. How sad I feel that I have missed the opportunity to join with others as they prepare and wait in anticipation for the birth of Jesus Christ. (And how ripped off I feel because many Pentecostal churches have removed the celebration of this season from their calendars!)
Over the past few months I have found myself drawn towards a more traditional style of worship experience and with that has come this word – Advent.
Whilst I have obviously missed my chance to celebrate Advent this year, the meaning is still clear and next year I will be buying candles and lighting them in order: purple, purple, pink, purple and finally, white.
On the first Sunday of Advent I will light a purple candle of hope which will remind me that God keeps His promises. He promised His saviour and He sent one. I will reflect on the anticipation and hope of the coming Messiah.
On the following Sunday I will light the second purple candle of love. This candle will remind me of the incredible love of God in sending me His Son as the greatest gift I will ever receive.
Then on the third Sunday of Advent I will light the pink candle of joy as I remember the angles that gathered and announced the birth of Christ with great joy.
On the Sunday before Christmas Day I will light another purple candle, the candle of peace.
On Christmas Eve, I will light the pure white candle – the Christ candle which represents and symbolizes that Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, has come to us all.
Next year, instead of approaching Christmas with a heavy heart, burdened and weighed down with the disillusionment that has become the meaning of Christmas for me, I will draw closer to God with a heart that is aching for more of Him. And as I sing the words “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices” I will once again feel that shiver of joy that this is the real meaning of Christmas – Christ has come.