Today is the first Sunday in Advent, Hope Sunday. Advent marks the time in the liturgical calendar when we begin waiting and watching for Jesus’ birth. It’s a time when we, as Christians, prepare our heart for the Christ child’s birth. These days Advent may be familiar to a lot of people from the calendars many of us have in our homes. Calendars which have little doors to open everyday before Christmas. Behind every door is typically a chocolate or a small toy. I usually buy one of these calendars for my kids too, but I also mark the Advent season in other ways. I make an advent wreath, and each Sunday during this season I prepare a family supper and we light the candle. I will sometimes ask one of the kids to read a passage from an advent book we have or we say a prayer.
With all the build-up towards Christmas, its commercialism, and the business of the season, it’s easy to lose sight of Advent, when we quiet ourselves, and wait and watch. Advent always seems to come on the heels of Thanksgiving, so it’s easy to overlook it, and then suddenly find yourself careening into Christmas, without even pausing to catch your breath and reflect upon the meaning of this holiday. Diego sings in the children’s choir at our church and his choir always performs at a special family Advent service on the first Sunday in Advent. This beautiful family service allows me the time to mark the beginning of the season, as I listen to the voices of angels and reflect on the readings.
When the advent service is over, we go to a pot luck where we can make an advent wreath. We learned that the greens on the wreath remind us of everlasting life. The circle reminds us of God’s everlasting love for us and the candles bring light as the winter days grow shorter. They also remind us that Jesus is the light of the world. Sometimes the wreaths have three purple candles and one pink. Each candle symbolizes something different. Today’s candle is for Hope. The Hope that comes to this world in the form of the Christ Child.
The words that Diego and the children’s choirs sang this evening illustrate the meaning of this first Sunday of Advent, Hope Sunday.
Light a Candle in the Night. Prepare the way for the holy light;
God with us, Emmanuel, eternal hope with us to dwell.
Child of hope come in your glory, heaven’s gift the wondrous story.
Messiah King shall come to earth, Prepare your heart for his holy birth.
-Lloyd Larson and Emily E.S. Elliot