Advent 2019: Hope

By Jamie Harms

Around this time every year as the dark evenings come earlier and earlier, we see fir trees decorated with sparkling ornaments pop up in living room windows, hear bellringers as we enter stores, and spot beautifully wrapped gifts displayed all over town. Music is played everywhere to brightening the mood. Coats and gloves are worn by those walking down the street, and glittering lights adorn roof lines. All indicate that something is coming. As soon as we see these signs, we know that the Christmas season is upon us. We wait in eager expectation for Christmas to be here.

It is easy to get swept up in all the hubbub of the season and miss that Christmas is the celebration of our Emmanuel come in the flesh, and that He is coming again. It was not until I was an adult and living in Baltimore that I was introduced to a liturgical advent. Advent means coming, and the whole point is intentionally looking for the one coming. Instead of Christmas trees and gifts, liturgical advent celebrations include a wreath with five candles — one candle lit each of the four Sundays before Christmas and the fifth on Christmas morning.  

As each candle is lit, part of the Christmas story is read, and Christmas carols are sung to remind us of who Jesus is and why He came. The first Sunday focuses on the hope of His coming and is called the prophecy candle. Verses from Isaiah are read and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is sung.  

The second Sunday picks up the story with the Bethlehem candle, emphasizing Christ’s birth and the faith that we have in Him. The shepherd candle is the third candle and continues the story with the shepherds in the fields as they hear the proclamations of Jesus’ birth and experience the joy of the news that their Messiah has come. 

The angel’s message is emphasized again with the fourth candle — the angel candle — remembering the peace that can only come with being united with our Messiah. The final candle that is lit Christmas morning is the Christ candle, for He is the embodiment of hope, faith, joy, and peace told of all month! The liturgical advent is a very tangible way to participate in the waiting for the coming of Christ.

At UFC, we do not have wreaths and candles to tell the Christmas story, but that does not mean we cannot intentionally find ways to prepare our hearts for the advent our Christ’s coming both 2000 years ago in a stable and His future coming as a king. Celebrating advent can be as simple as reading through the Christmas story in a kid’s Bible and acting it out with a nativity set, or making mugs of hot chocolate and reading through Luke 2 as a family. Some people set up a Jesse tree and hang ornaments that tell the story of Christ’s coming, while still others sing through Christmas carols with friends and pray together. Advent books abound to remind us to take time each day and remember whose arrival we are awaiting. The season of remembering doesn’t have to be elaborate or perfect. It’s simply a slowing as the anticipation builds for His coming!

I invite you to join me on Sundays here on this blog as we celebrate together this advent season. Today we pause to celebrate anticipation and hope. The prophets of old foretold the coming Messiah as His people clung to the hope that He would indeed come and deliver them just like He faithfully did from Egypt. For hundreds of years, God’s people waited, watching for their Messiah — their Emmanuel, God with us. Then one day, God in human flesh made Himself known to His people being born of a virgin. So, today, we remember the hope we have in the coming Christ as we light the first candle of Advent.

The Prophecy Candle

Reading: The book of Isaiah is one of the places in the Old Testament that tells of the coming Messiah, highlighting the character and actions of the expected one. Spend some time reflecting on the character of our Messiah as He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,

on them has light shone.

You have multiplied the nation;

you have increased its joy;

they rejoice before you

as with joy at the harvest,

as they are glad when they divide the spoil.

For the yoke of his burden,

and the staff for his shoulder,

the rod of his oppressor,

you have broken as on the day of Midian.

For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult

and every garment rolled in blood

will be burned as fuel for the fire.

For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given;

and the government shall be upon his shoulder,

and his name shall be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and of peace

there will be no end,

on the throne of David and over his kingdom,

to establish it and to uphold it

with justice and with righteousness

from this time forth and forevermore.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Isaiah 9:2-7

O come, O come, Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear

O come, Thou, Dayspring from on high

And cause Thy light on us to rise

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

And death’s dark shadow put to flight

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, O come, true prophet of the Lord

And turn the key to heaven’s door

Be Thou our comforter and guide

And lead us to the Father’s side

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall by His word our darkness dispel

O come, our great High Priest, and intercede

Thy sacrifice, our only plea

The judgment we no longer fear

Thy precious blood has brought us near

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Has banished every fear of hell

O Come, Thou King of nations bring

An end to all our suffering

Bid every pain and sorrow cease

And reign now as our Prince of Peace

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come again with us to dwell

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel