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Dec14ThuRetrospective #56 December 14, 2017 Randy C. HicksI'm thinking that it was back in the 80's (1980's that is!) that a special project appeared with the Corps Cadet curriculum for the Fall series. There was an informative write-up along with complete instructions on how one could build/make an Advent Wreath. As a child growing up in the Army I must confess I don't remember this feature being a part of our Christmas worship theme (perhaps too "churchy"). It may have been different for you. As a matter of fact, for me, this may well have been my introduction to this wonderful tradition. We did build ourselves a wreath and we used the readings included to share it on the four Sunday mornings during the forty days leading up to Christmas.
What Is Advent?
For many Christians unfamiliar with the liturgical year, there may be some confusion surrounding the meaning of the Advent season. Some people may know that the Advent season focuses on expectation and think that it serves as an anticipation of Christ’s birth in the season leading up to Christmas. This is part of the story, but there’s more to Advent.
The History of Advent
The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,” which is a translation of the Greek word parousia. Scholars believe that during the 4th and 5th centuries in Spain and Gaul, Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany, the celebration of God’s incarnation represented by the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:1), his baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist (John 1:29), and his first miracle at Cana (John 2:1). During this season of preparation, Christians would spend 40 days in penance, prayer, and fasting to prepare for this celebration; originally, there was little connection between Advent and Christmas.
By the 6th century, however, Roman Christians had tied Advent to the coming of Christ. But the “coming” they had in mind was not Christ’s first coming in the manger in Bethlehem, but his second coming in the clouds as the judge of the world. It was not until the Middle Ages that the Advent season was explicitly linked to Christ’s first coming at Christmas.
Today, the season of Advent lasts for four Sundays leading up to Christmas. At that time, the new Christian year begins with the twelve-day celebration of Christmastide, which lasts from Christmas Eve until Epiphany on January 6. (Advent begins on the Sunday that falls between November 27th and December 3rd each year.)Just over three years ago I wrote the following poem in an attempt to capture the essence of this symbol using the themes which with I am most familiar. There are other assigned meanings given to the candles of course but these are presently my favourite.
The Advent Wreath
Randy C. Hicks
November 17, 2014
In a circle of evergreen
Great Hope for all the world is seen
A candle burns and sheds its light
Reaching into the darkest night!
A second spark then adds its glow
Peace is the gift it will bestow
Ending all wars and conflicts dire
Renewing hearts it will inspire!
A third wick shines with heaven's beam
Bright Joy and laughter in its stream
Faces are smiling all around
Fear and sadness are no more found!
Add to this trio one more star
The Love of God is reaching far
Around the globe it touches all
The poor, the rich, the great and small!
The "Life-Light" so the Gospel claims
Brightest and purest of the flames!
Now standing in the center tall
This light shines out above them all!
The Christ-Candle! Glory to God!
Immanuel here, on this sod!
His Life in us! We rise new-born!
His Light in us! An Easter morn!
This is the story in the bough
It happened then, it happens now
And some tomorrow He'll return
These lessons from the wreath we learn!