Welcome to Advent

Advent—Christ’s Light Dispels Our Deepest Darkness

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child (Luke 2:4-5).

Welcome to Advent!

In the Christian Calendar, the four weeks before Christmas invite us to a time of holy preparation. We wait—actively wait—for God to fulfill his promise to humankind. In the first two weeks, with hushed breath, we wait to anticipate the coming of the Babe of Bethlehem. We follow God’s plan through the GPS of Scripture. We prepare our hearts. We ask the Holy Spirit to fill us afresh with the love of God in Jesus.

During the second two weeks, we look ahead to the story’s: The Second Coming of Jesus. We anticipate his soon coming. We read how he will come as King of Kings, our Lord of Glory, the Risen and Ascended One. He will appear as a Bridegroom claiming his bride—God’s people, those who worship Jesus as Lord.

Advent is a time of hope, of gentle anticipation. We strain forward, once again, to receive Jesus more deeply, more personally, more fully. Because of his great gift, we give gifts to others.

This is also a time of deep personal repentance. Turning our backs on sinful habits, we seek God for cleansing forgiveness. We ask our Father to make us holy—as holy as ever forgiven sinners can be.

The four weeks of Advent inspire in us a season of open-hearted adoration. We bow before the Christ- Child, the Man of Calvary, who is our Coming King. We say, “Hallelujah! What a Saviour!” We bring to God the gift of our imperfect selves. And we receive the flawless gift of Jesus: all we are for all He is.

Advent is a singular time to share God’s gift of hope. Followers in the way of Jesus reach out to family, friends and neighbours. They welcome all who may be lost along the way. Some seek meaning for their lives. Others are set off-course by this world’s distractions, entertainments, and diversions. Some are sin-bound, held in deepest darkness by the world, the flesh, and the devil. They are as we were until the Saviour reached down in love. In welcoming him, Christ’s forgiveness, hope, and love shall set us free.

Advent (from the Latin meaning arrival) speaks of real hope entering the territory of broken lives. Jesus is God’s once-for-all unspeakable gift. To trust Christ’s in his Calvary death for each of us makes possible a fresh start and new hope for all who embrace Jesus as Lord and Saviour. He is our Friend and King, the Coming One. Jesus is the Expected One of Advent. He is the One for whom our hearts are truly longing.

We offer these devotionals with the prayer that they may glorify God. We pray, too, that they bless you, the reader. Let them lead you beyond the cradle, to the crown. May they strengthen your faith in our eternal One, God-in-Three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In Advent, we worship the Triune God of Scripture right in the place where He has placed us. May we, too, discover that “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee, tonight.” Amen.

Using your Advent Wreath
On the four Advent Sundays, you may wish to focus on Christ by using your Advent wreath. Many Christians around the world find it helpful. They reflect on Messiah’s coming by lighting candles on their wreath. But do take care! In our home, we have often reduced part of our wreath to smouldering ash!

The custom of lighting the Christmas wreath candles goes back at least to the 16 th century and some suggest even the 4 th century AD. Many different traditions have developed. People differ in their details. It is important, therefore, to tailor your tradition in meaningful ways for you and your loved ones.

We suggest a pattern and approach in what follows. You may choose to use, amend, or ponder it further. Each Sunday in Advent we invite you to light a candle on our wreath.

The first Sunday’s candle stands, in our suggested pattern, for Hope. Scripture portions are offered. They may help you to focus on each Sunday’s theme.

On the second Advent Sunday, some light a candle of Preparation. We choose to light a Candle of Peace. On this second Sunday, you will light the first candle again. Then, light this Sunday’s candle–the candle of Peace. It speaks to us of the Prince of Peace, Jesus our Lord.

Proceeding in this way, light the third Sunday’s candle. This is the Gaudete (GOW-day-tay) candle (from Latin), meaning: rejoice [ye]! Rejoice! —It calls us to holy Joy. A joy that is missing for many, today.

The fourth Sunday’s candle speaks of Love. The Father’s heart of love brings Jesus to birth in the lives of those who give him room. We seek his face, receive his love, and bow to worship him.
By Christmas Day, all four candles are lit. It is time to light a fifth—and central—one, the Christ candle. In the midst of our celebrations, it reminds us to worship and adore the Living Lord Jesus. Stepping into our broken world, he enters as our Saviour. He comes as Emmanuel, God with Us. We receive him still, to forgive and cleanse, to heal our wounded spirits, and fill our fragile hearts.

Sunday by Sunday, as you light each candle with loved ones, we invite you to read a suggested Scripture portion. Allow it to focus your heart and mind. Invite God to speak personally through his Word to you.

You may choose to use an Advent wreath or find other ways to focus on Jesus. We pray, this Advent, that you may draw near to Christ. Celebrate him as your King and Friend, your Lord and Saviour.

Prepare your heart; welcome his coming. Expect God to richly bless you as you wait in hope for him.

Advent Prayer: Living God, we say: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of goodwill. We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you. For, you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord. You alone are God Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. We draw near to God, knowing he will draw near to us.

Thank you, Lord. Amen.