Isaiah 9:2 / Matthew 4:16
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah 9:2. When he came he brought great hope to the people who felt lost and uncertain. Like they were drifting in the events of time that they feared had no place for them in the world. But, their perception of the world was not correct. They were looking at things around them and not at the whole breadth of life and the purpose of God for God’s gift of life.
Do you ever have a sense of fear or hopelessness at the events around your own life and community? Do not fear. There is more at work than you can see, and God is in the details that touch your life and the lives of every person in creation. Even when it is not evident.
This Advent season, our Sunday worship services will be celebrating the coming of Christ into the world. The stories about this in scripture tell us that messengers came to tell the people something new is happening here. To do that their first words were: Do Not Be Afraid. A short to the point imperative. Do not be afraid. For the four weeks of advent we will look at the gifts Jesus brings with Him, and he came as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. In the spirit of a short, to the point message, our Sundays will look at those truths through a contemporary short message: hashtags. Come spend Advent with Christ UMC. We will find #MoreHope, #MorePeace, #MoreJoy, #MoreLove. And the Sunday after Christmas, #MoreLife.
The Advent of Jesus in Scripture
Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 9:6: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Micah 5:2: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
The season of Advent, which comes from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming” or “visit," begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year for Christians. [Liturgical -- from liturgy, which means the forms and functions of public worship.]*
During Advent, we prepare for, and anticipate, the coming of Christ. We remember the longing of Jews for a Messiah and our own longing for, and need of, forgiveness, salvation and a new beginning. Even as we look back and celebrate the birth of Jesus in a humble stable in Bethlehem, we also look forward anticipating the second coming of Christ as the fulfillment of all that was promised by his first coming.
Recall that the building blocks of Advent — its images, stories, memories, promises, songs, and hopes — are already present in the Bible. The rich images of the prophets Isaiah and Amos are there. The stories of John, Mary, Elizabeth, Joseph, and John the Baptist are found in the Scriptures. There are Israel’s memories of exile and the hope for a day when God would restore hope, justice, and rulers in the line of David. There you find the songs: Mary‘s song, Zechariah's song, and the psalms of lament, anguish, and hope. The vision of a new heaven and a new earth is there. Jesus’ call to be alert because we don’t know the day or the hour when the Son of Man will come is there. Paul's and Peter’s words to believers awaiting the return of the risen Lord (the second coming) are there. All of this was there by the end of the first century. It was only a matter of time until the churches in various places began to find ways to weave these elements into their worship and into the ways they kept time together.
Although we are accustomed to celebrating Christmas on a single day, in both Christian tradition and on the Church calendar, the Christmas season lasts sundown on December 24 (Christmas Eve) through Epiphany of the Lord (January 6). This is sometimes popularly referred to as "the twelve days of Christmas."
The Advent wreath, four candles on a wreath of evergreen, is shaped in a perfect circle to symbolize the eternity of God. In some churches, four purple candles, one for each week in Advent, are used with one larger white candle in the middle as the Christ candle. Other churches prefer three purple or blue candles with one candle being rose or pink, to represent joy.
While the Advent wreath with its four candles did bring light to churches, it was not to illuminate the interior as much as to symbolize the coming of Christ. The Advent wreath began in the time of the Protestant reformer Martin Luther.
During each Sunday of the Advent season, we focus on one of the four virtues Jesus brings us: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love (not always in this order). Others consider the lighting of the first candle to symbolize expectation, while the second symbolizes hope, the third joy and the fourth purity. The Christ candle is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day reminding Christians that Jesus is the light of the world. The order and exact wording vary among churches, but the wreath continually reminds us of whom we are called to be as followers of Jesus.
*Much of the information for this article came from the following website. There is much more to read if you want more information about Advent. Have fun! http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/what-is-advent
- Pastor Jill