The Significance of Advent

December 1, 2016 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement

When John the Baptist was born, his father, Zechariah, after nine months of being mute, “was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied” (Lk. 1:67). Zechariah’s “Benedictus” (from the Latin “Blessed”) is filled with praise for a covenant-keeping God. He concludes his song of praise with predictive words for his own newborn son. He says,

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Lk. 1:76-79)

Prepare his ways.
Give knowledge of salvation in forgiveness.
Give light to those who sit in darkness.
Guide our feet into peace.

John the Baptist’s ministry became a model for the church in her celebration of the birth of Christ. The season of Advent mirrors John’s ministry call to “prepare the way of the Lord.” And the lighting of Advent candles has become a way for the church to encapsulate in symbolic fashion this ministry of preparation.

1. Purple candles represent the call to repent. One of the primary ways John the Baptist prepared the way for the coming Christ was to call the people to repent. Repentance, in a sense, is like cleaning house, even renovating a home, in order to prepare it for new use. The call to repent is a call to clean our hearts in order to make room for the newborn king. To repent is to turn away from the idolatrous sins that divide our hearts from loving God.

2. The circular evergreens represent the hope of eternal life in Christ. Evergreens have become a staple in Christmas celebrations (from Christmas trees to wreaths to garlands). The very nature of the “ever” green points to the reality of eternal life. As Zechariah prophesied, John’s ministry was to “give knowledge of salvation.” The Advent candle display symbolizes that through repentance we come to enjoy eternal life.

3. The lighting of candles represent the very presence of the “light of the world.” From prophecies in Isaiah 9 to Jesus’ very own words, the hope of the coming Christ was represented by light. For those caught in the darkness of sin and death, the hope of light is incredibly encouraging. Each candle lit points us to the one true light of the world.

4. The pink candle represents the joy that ripples under the surface as we anticipate the coming Christ. Christ’s birth was celebrated with great rejoicing. While John’s ministry and the season of Advent highlights repentance, joy is in the undercurrent. The brokenness of repentance gives way to fullness of joy in Christ.

As you look forward to celebrate the glory of a newborn king, remember to prepare him room in your heart. May you be filled with joy in Christ this Advent season!


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