It is difficult to interpret life. It is incredibly difficult to interpret the transcendent and eternal aspects of life.
A cheery introduction, right? Well, cheer up: Advent season is upon us.
Advent is the part of the church calendar which precedes Epiphany, which is celebrated from Christmas until Easter. Advent begins on the Sunday closest to November 30th, and lasts through Christmas Eve.
But why should this cheer you up?
Advent is Latin for “arrival” or “coming.” During this time of the year, we look forward to the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas. We look forward by having symbols that remind us who Jesus is, and why He makes sense of our lives.
Advent symbols are as follows: an evergreen wreath and five candles. The wreath reminds us of Jesus’ words in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” The green symbolizes life, and the circular wreath reminds us of the eternal life which God promises to those that believe in Jesus.
The five candles all together remind us of Jesus being the light of the world (John 8:12). Jesus lights the world through his gifts of hope, love, joy, and peace. Each Sunday of Advent, one candle is lit, in order to remind us of these gifts, and to prepare our hearts for the joy of the fifth candle, the one that is in the middle of them all: the Christ Candle.
It is called the Christ Candle because Jesus is the anointed savior of the world. Christ is the Greek translation for the Hebrew word Messiah. Both of these mean: anointed one.
All of this matters to us for a few reasons. The biggest one is that we are easily distracted, and we need symbols to remind us of the big picture truths of life. It also matters to us because it causes us to make sense of life-to see what is truly important. We need to be people of hope, love, joy and peace. We need to show people that Jesus is the light of the world.
And that is the meaning of Christmas.