Advent is the season of the church year that leads us to Christmas. Advent invites us to explore the presence of God in the world in our own lives first with images about Jesus’ return, and then stories from the events pointing to his birth at Bethlehem. In this time of the year when the night is longest, followers of Jesus all across the world light Advent wreaths to remind us that God is here and the light God brings to the world grows.
Advent songs and carols bring a beautiful blend sorrowful and hopeful. Much of the music is poignant, almost pleading. They remind us that thought the night is long, light is growing. While there are painful and difficult times in our lives, God is here.
Each year, I put out the Advent wreath with its four deep blue candles. We begin by lighting one candle the first week, and add another each Sunday. I am always struck by how much light each little flame brings. Around the table, my family sings “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” as we light them. Of the many names for God, Emmanuel literally means “God is with us.” While God is always with us, the weeks of Advent invite us to focus on God’s presence in the world as we prepare for the Christmas celebration of God’s coming to earth as a baby, and as we anticipate Jesus’ return at the end of the ages.
These are some of my favorite weeks of the church year. Reminders of God’s presence in our lives, and in the face of the struggles of the world give us hope in difficult times. Growing light in the deepest night encourages us through the long nights, the struggles in our lives, the injustice in the world.
God is with us. May the lights of Advent bring us hope.