‘The gift the World needs this Christmas is….’ How would you finish that statement? This is the challenge I have set the children at Beech Hill for our Carol Service on the 5th December. It could equally have said, ‘The gift the World needs in 2020 is….’
At a time of considerable uncertainty in our country and in many parts of the World, the season of Advent offers a time of preparation as we wait once again to celebrate the birth of Jesus, God’s son who was sent in to the mess and chaos of the World. Our Advent candles this year represent the themes of hope, peace, joy, love and light. We could easily answer the above statements by putting one of these words in. Hope reminds us that we look forward to the coming of Jesus Christ our Lord and trust in his promise to be with us always. Peace reminds us that we eagerly anticipate the coming reign of Christ, the Prince of Peace. Joy reminds us that fullness of joy comes from God alone. Love reminds us that we are known and loved by God. Light reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world.
‘All we can’, the Methodist Charity, has prepared an Advent liturgy based on these themes. I have adapted this for us to use during Advent, alongside a hymn written by a member of the United Methodist Church. So, what is the significance of the three purple candles, the pink candle and the white candle that will be on our Advent Wreath this year?
The purple candles symbolise preparation, penitence and royalty to welcome the new King. The purple of Advent is also the colour of suffering used during Lent and Holy Week. This points to an important connection between Jesus’ birth and death. The nativity, the Incarnation, cannot be separated from the crucifixion. The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world, of the “Word made flesh” dwelling among us, is to reveal God and His grace to the world through Jesus’ life and teaching, but also through his suffering, death, resurrection and ascension. To reflect this emphasis, originally Advent was a time of penitence and fasting, much as the Season of Lent and so shared the colour of Lent. In the four weeks of Advent the third Sunday came to be a time of rejoicing that the fasting was almost over. Gaudette Sunday (“Rejoice,” from an ancient antiphon based on Philippians 4:4) has an especially joyous emphasis, so often rose (pink) as a symbol of joy is seen to replace the purple. The shift for this Sunday reflects this lessening emphasis on penitence as attention turned more to celebration of the season of Advent. The white candle represents the purity and holiness of Jesus, light of the World.
As we move on in to the New Year we make our Covenant with God once again on the 5th January. We recommit our lives to God’s purposes and promise to serve Him as and where He calls us. I wish you all a joy filled Advent, Christmas and New Year.
Your sister in Christ, Juliet