Today is the first Sunday in Advent and also the first day of the Jesse Tree. It’s also the day we went on the traditional arboreal hunt. (We chopped down our Christmas Tree.) As Satchmo said as we chopped down the 9′ Virginia Pine, “Die, tree! Die!” Ah, tree murder: The true meaning of Christmas.
On the first Sunday of Advent, we light the Promise Candle. Or perhaps the Prophecy, Hope, Expectation, or Waiting of the Shepherd candle.
The symbols we generally use are Promise, Angel, Bethlehem, and Shepherd, but there are many combinations from which to choose:
Promise, Light, Love, Hope
Hope, Peace, Joy, Love
Prophecy, Bethlehem, Shepherd, Angel
Hope, Preparation, Joy, Love
Prophecy, Way, Joy, Peace
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Expectation, John the Baptist, Mary, Magi
Waiting for the Shepherd, Waiting for Forgiveness, Waiting for Joy, Waiting for the Son
I like the last alternative because it emphasizes that Advent is a season of preparation and expectation. But whichever combination of symbols we use for the advent wreath, the center candle is always the same: The Christ Candle.
This Advent Season, I really want to focus on preparation, particularly preparing my heart, and not on some extended celebration season. The celebration will come, but the preparation of Advent mirrors the preparation that this life is for the next. We can get so distracted by the decorations of life that we miss the true purpose of this time: to make us into the image of Christ, to sanctify us, stretch us, and make us ready for eternity.
The other facet of that comparison is that, like Advent, this life is supposed to be joyful. We wait with joyful expectation. My desire this season is that I don’t get so busy and focused on the “musts and oughts” that I miss the joyful expectation, and that I take that attitude past the Advent season to every day. Advent is a symbol of a reality. If I get the symbol but not the reality, I’ve failed.
How are you preparing for Christmas? What does the Advent season mean to you?