Advent - Beginning the Church's New Year

By George Veith , December 02, 2018 19:12 PM

An Advent wreath (pixabay.com)

This Sunday marks the beginning of the church's liturgical year and the first Sunday of Advent. Over the centuries the church has marked out special days of celebration during the year.  Christmas and Easter are probably the most familiar ones to most Christians. However, the church calendar begins every year with the 4-week time of Advent.  The celebration of Advent has been around since the 5th Century. Today, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and various Protestant church denominations celebrate it. Churches in China who follow the liturgical calendar also celebrate Advent.

Advent comes from the Latin adventus which is the translation of the Greek word parousia. This word is commonly used to refer to Christ's Second Coming. For Christians, the season of Advent anticipates the coming of Christ from three different perspectives: His first coming in the flesh as an infant to Bethlehem; His coming by the Holy Spirit into the heart of every believer every day; and His second coming in the flesh as a mighty King to completely usher in His Kingdom.

Each Advent Sunday is marked by a theme. The 1st Sunday is Hope, the 2nd Sunday, Peace, the 3rd Sunday, Joy, and the 4th Sunday, Love. Those churches that celebrate Advent prepare a wreath of four candles, each representing one of the 4 Sundays and a 5th candle in the middle, known as the "Christ candle". A candle is lit at the beginning of the church service. Each subsequent Sunday an additional candle is  lit. On the 4th Sunday of Advent, all four candles are lit. Then on Christmas Day, the Christ candle is lit as well as the other four, signified that Christ has come. 

This Sunday's Advent theme is Hope. When we look at our world around us, we see many situations in which there seems to be little hope.  I have heard a Christian say, "I have come to learn that the secret to life is hope." Hope is indeed what keeps us going when a situation is difficult and we would want to give.  It is that last glimmer when all seems to be lost. Hope gives our life meaning. 

For Christians, we have hope because of God's many promises. He will indeed be with us, strengthen us and guide us. We have hope because of what Christ has done on the cross.  He has overcome all principalities and powers of evil and delivered us from the penalty of sin and death. Death is not the end.  As in Chinese the word for goodbye is zai jian - "see you again", for every Christian the hope is indeed zai jian-that we will indeed see each other again, if not in this life, then in eternity. And we have hope because we know that Christ will come again in power and glory and make all things right. This Advent season, may we dwell on the theme of hope for it is indeed the secret to life!

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