These two English words come from the same Latin root, combining venire, come, with ad, to. The advent of something we hope for is when that thing “comes to” reality. The original application of the term to the mid-winter season had to do with the Advent of the Messiah, the coming of God’s Son, our Savior, into the world. The four candles, lit one per week the month before Christmas, help believers pace themselves in anticipation of the celebration of Christ’s birth.
Johann Henrich Wichern, the 19th Century German pastor who is credited with inventing the modern Advent Wreath, created it to help teach patience to the poor children of his urban congregation. On a circular wooden platform covered with evergreen branches, he placed, not only four large white candles to be lit one each Sunday, but also 20 smaller red candles, one to be lit each weekday. A good lesson in disciplined waiting.
Since then, the annual repetition of the candle lighting ritual has helped Christian families keep the true meaning of Christmas before them. But this celebration doesn’t have to be predictable and boring. In fact, the word adventure comes from the same Latin root, ad plus venire. Stepping out into a new kind of experience is exciting, but also a bit scary. What might happen, what might go wrong?
Each Advent should always be a bit of an adventure. We can and should eagerly anticipate the rhythm of the Christmas season year by year. However, we’re different people than we were a year ago, and the world’s a different place. So, if we’re normal, healthy believers, growing in our Christian experience with the changing challenges of life, we should expect that every Christmas will bring us some surprises. We shouldn’t be afraid of them but look forward to them.
What new experience does God have for us in the Candles this Christmas? What Advent Adventure is ahead of us? What new insight into the great salvation we have because of Christ’s coming? What new dimension in our marriage, our family life? What gifts or character traits might God want to develop in us?
The advent (birth) of a baby is always an adventure. We’re never sure who they’ll resemble, how intelligent they’ll be, how healthy. Imagine what Adventure lay in the manger that first Advent Day. His mother “pondered in her heart,” but her personal adventure was just beginning.
How about the baby–you being born through faith in him.? What adventures may be ahead if you welcome his full advent into your life?
I am a promise
I am a possibility
I am a promise with a capital “P”
I can be anything
Anything God wants me to be. *
– Pastor George Van Alstine
*Children’s song credited to Gloria Gaither.