Advent Sunday is always the fourth Sunday before Christmas, so this year it falls on 29th November. The word Advent comes from the Latin word meaning arrival, and our season of Advent looks forward to celebrating the arrival (or birth) of Jesus. In many churches, a new candle is lit on each Sunday during Advent, and a fifth candle is lit on Christmas Day. A particular theme is often associated with each Sunday. The detail can vary widely, but they usually include four from Faith, Hope, Peace, Love and Joy. The four Advent themes proposed by the Church of England are:
- The Candle of Hope.
- The Candle of Peace.
- The Candle of Love.
- The Candle of Joy.
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It might seem strange to hope for something we are sure of! After all, we have probably already started to plan for Christmas – though this year perhaps these plans are as much in hope as in expectation! When we watch one of the great Shakespearian tragedies, we feel a kind of hope that it won’t happen this time, even though we know it will! But for Christians, our hope is not such a wish, nor is it a wish such as ‘I hope it won’t rain tomorrow’. It is a hope in confident expectation. During Advent, we often say ‘Come, Lord Jesus’ – and we mean it! We are asking Jesus to come into our hearts and to change our lives. Advent is seen as a period of preparation. We try to clear out some of the clutter of our lives so that we are able to welcome Christ on Christmas Day. You may notice that churches tend not to have displays of flowers during this period. Just as in our homes, there is a great bustle of activity just before Christmas Day as he church gets ready to celebrate. And what is it we will celebrate and remember? The birth of the Son of God – the mystery of the Incarnation; God becomes Human.
St Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Rome: “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 15:13).
A traditional prayer as we begin to prepare ourselves to welcome Jesus afresh into our lives:
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen