Advent anticipation (27-11-20)
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Saviour. (Jeremiah 23.5 - 6)
Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. (Micah 5. 2, 4)
This Sunday will be the first Sunday of Advent, although our Advent calendars will not begin until Tuesday on the first day of December. It is all too easy to forget Advent as we become caught up in the commercial push towards Christmas. However, in the church, this is traditionally a time of watching, waiting and anticipation, a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus, not only remembering his birth as a baby but also looking towards his second coming as the King of kings, who will establish the kingdom of God and rule with wisdom and righteousness. There are various customs which help us to prepare and over the next few weeks I will be reflecting on some of them, beginning with the Advent Wreath.
The Advent Wreath probably began within the family home in Germany, but it was later transferred to the church. The wreath is made up of evergreen branches including holly and ivy. The greenery is seen by Christians as symbolic of God’s faithfulness, with the holly and its red berries symbolic of the death of Christ and his crown of thorns. We see this imagery reflected in the carol, ‘The Holly and the Ivy’.
The wreath normally has five large candles, one for each of the four Sundays of Advent, and a central, fifth one for Christmas Day. Anticipation builds as one candle is lit on the first week of Advent, two candles on the second week and so on until all five candles are lit together on Christmas Day. Readings remind us of The Patriachs (the ancestors of Jesus); The Prophets (those called to proclaim the coming Saviour); John the Baptist (the forerunner, who prepared for Jesus’ ministry); and Mary, mother of Jesus, gradually propelling us towards the climax of events on Christmas Day.
The Prophets, Jeremiah and Micah together with Isaiah, looked forward to the coming of a Messiah and King, who would rule wisely and fairly. Bethlehem appeared small and insignificant, and yet it was there that the Messiah would be born in poverty and vulnerability.
Allow the anticipation to build in you as we prepare once more for the coming of the Christ Child. He arrived quietly and almost unnoticed that first Christmas, so let us determine to keep him at the very heart of Christmas 2020 and to be aware of his presence with us.
In our watching and in our waiting, come, Lord Jesus. In our hearts and in our homes, come, Lord Jesus.
In our lives and in our world, come, Lord Jesus. Amen.