The waning sunlight at four o’clock means that it is almost Christmas. What do you like most about Christmas? Is it the candies, the presents under the tree, or getting together with family? For me, what I enjoy most is the expectation.
Before Christmas, we have four weeks of Advent. Well, perhaps more precisely we can speak of four Sundays of Advent, because sometimes that last week can be pretty short. Each Sunday introduces a theme that can help us get ready to celebrate the Birth of Our Lord in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago.
Two Comings of Christ
Advent is a time of joyful expectation. Jesus is coming, but is not here yet. The early Christians felt very clearly an apocalyptic aspect of Advent. On the one hand, it is a preparation for the coming of Jesus at Christmas. On the other hand, it is a joyful expectation of the Second Coming of the Christ. One of my favorite Advent traditions expresses well this spirit of expectation.
The Advent wreath makes a nice table decoration, but is always deeply meaningful. Each of the candles helps us represent one of the Sundays of Advent. So, as the days get shorter, the wreath gets brighter as each week another candle is lit.
Progression of the Four Sundays
This year, I would like to focus on the image of light throughout Advent.
The First Sunday reminds us that light reveals sin, especially in the first reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah. We can use this first week of Advent to discover our own sin and give it over to God in the sacrament of confession.
Next, the Second Sunday of Advent reminds us that light prepares the way. The Evangelist Mark is confident that light prepares the way of the Messiah. He can see himself as someone who is called to prepare the way for Jesus. Just as Mark followed the example of St. John the Baptist, each one of us can aspire to be a light to prepare the way of Jesus into somebody’s heart.
Third Candle – Expectation and Joy
Following, the Third Sunday of Advent reminds us that light brings favor. Both the reading from Isaiah and the Gospel of John recall the image of light. Light is closely bound to the Creation story and to our human existence. Without light, it would be very hard for us to function. This third week of Advent, characterized by the joy expressed in the pink candle, calls us recognize God’s light in our lives. This week, we should hold on to the joy of the coming of the Lord. Now, the expectation intensifies.
Finally, the Fourth Sunday of Advent reminds us that light brings grace. The Evangelist Luke recounts how the angel Gabriel arrived to Mary in Nazareth to announce that she would be the mother of the Savior. Surely, light shone to glorify the Mother of the Lord. Just as Mary is full of grace, we can live our Christian witness more deeply if we unite ourselves to the Mother of Jesus. “Hail Mary, full of grace…” We can take time this week to make sure that we pray the rosary every day.
The Advent wreath reminds us of the beauty of life in the midst of the bleakness of winter. As we light the candles, it is good to renew our faith and prepare our hearts to receive the Savior into our hearts and homes.
As each candle is progressively lit, our hearts prepare with greater expectation for the coming of the Lord!