Today is the first Sunday of Advent, 2023. The day marks the lighting of the first Advent candle, anticipating the arrival of the baby Jesus to be born in a stable in Bethlehem later this month. Advent is unusually late this year. In fact, the fourth and final Sunday of Advent occurs on Christmas Eve, a rarity, as we await Christmas morning!
The lighting of todays’s candle represents the hope and faith that we have in Jesus as we slow down our lives and anticipate His arrival. It is the hope of something new and wonderful as foretold by the Old Testament prophets. Traditionally, the color blue symbolizes the season of Advent, although many denominations also consider purple an acceptable celebratory color.
Different Christian denominations actually celebrate the liturgical seasons with different colors and dates. In fact, in some traditions, there are additional seasons to be celebrated. However, in most calendars there seem to be six seasons that are observed and special days interspersed throughout the year, such as Pentecost.
Following Advent, we have Christmastide, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and Ordinary time. Each of the seasons is represented by a color and the observance of activities in the life of Jesus.
Aside from today being the lighting of the first Advent candle, marking the beginning of the four weeks leading up to Christmas, it is also the first day of the new liturgical year! Yes, today is day one of the new year. The question frequently arises as to why these two events coincide. But the reason is really quite simple.
Each of the liturgical seasons has to do with important aspects in the life of Jesus. While it would be easy to assume that Easter and the resurrection is the most important thing that separates Christianity from other world religions, the idea of Advent conveys the waiting and anticipation of the birth of Jesus.
And so the liturgical year begins with a similar anticipation of the coming events during the year. The earthly life of Jesus, when God becomes flesh, starts on the day we celebrate as Christmas as was foretold by the prophets.
Our verse for tonight comes for Old Testament prophet Isaiah who announced the coming of Jesus. He tells us, in Isaiah 9:6-7, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.”
Did you catch that last part? Christ will reign forever! My encouragement this evening is that during this season of anticipation, God wants us to slow down and prayerfully consider the way the birth of Jesus changed the world forever. My prayer is that we will all look at the liturgical calendar in a new light – studying the various seasons of the earthly life of our Lord and Savior, reveling in His promises. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…