The O Antiphons: December 19 ~ O Redix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)

Latin:

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem Gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

The father of King David was Jesse, the prophesy of Micah says that the Messiah will come from the House of David.

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

Micah 5:2 (NIV)

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.”

Isaiah 11:1 (NIV)

“In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.”

Isaiah 11:10 (NIV)

The O Antiphons: December 18th ~ O Adonai (O Lord)

Latin:
O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel,qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,et ei in Sina legem dedisti:veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

Isaiah had prophesied:

“[…] but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. 


Isaiah 11:4-5 NIV

“For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; it is he who will save us.”


Isaiah 33:22 NIV

The O Antiphons: December 17 ~ O Sapientia (O Wisdom)

Latin:
O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae

In the Book of the Prophet Isaiah We read the following:

“The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears” 


Isaiah 11:2-3 NIV

All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent. 


Isaiah 28:29 NIV

For the Christian hearer this prophecy is important part of Christian doctrine coming from the first chapter of the Gospel of St. John describing the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 


John 1:1-5 NIV

The O Antiphons

During the years I spent in a Benedictine Monastery, I became acquainted with the singing of the O Antiphons during the evening service of Vespers. The O Antiphons are used during that last seven days of Advent during the evening service and begin with the vocative particle “O.”Each antiphon is a name of Christ along with one of his attributes from Scripture

  • 17 December: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
  • 18 December: O Adonai (O Lord)
  • 19 December: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
  • 20 December: O Clavis David (O Keyof David)
  • 21 December: O Oriens (O Dayspring)
  • 22 December: O Rex Gentium (O Kingof the Nations)
  • 23 December: O Emmanuel (O With Us is God)

Used primarily in the Roman Catholic Church they are also used in many Lutheran churches as well as Anglican and Episcopal Churches. The Book of Common Worship of the Presbyterian Church, USA includes them as a praise litany that can be used during morning and evening prayer. The hymn O come, O come, Emmanuel is a paraphrase of these antiphons.

Sermon: Look Forward

Time travel is a large part of Science Fiction books and movies. The ability to go back and forward in time aids the hero, and the villain, in stories but there is always the fear that if the characters interfere in some way the future will radically change. If you had the opportunity to go back in time what is one this you might change? Would you try and prevent war? Would you go back and tell your younger self not to do something or to do something?

How differently would you act today if you knew what tomorrow was going to bring? How different would your life be if you knew that at a particular time it was all going to end? I want to think that our lives would not be any different but I truly believe they would. We do not know the future; we do not know when it is all going to come to an end. Sure, people make lots of money trying to predict what and when but it does not usually turnout well for them, or us.

The prophets, like Zephaniah, that we heard from this morning, come at times in history when things are not going well for the people of God. Prophets say things no one wants to hear. Prophets point to the uncomfortable truth about people and the world around them. Prophets call people out for bad behavior and when they are causing others to skew their actions and beliefs. Prophets point us in directions that we do not always want to look and call us to things we do not always want to do.

However, prophets also hear God. Prophets feel God. Prophets feel God’s love and compassion for us when we do not feel it ourselves.Prophets dream God’s dreams. Prophets hope God’s hopes. Prophets call us to awaken. Prophets sing God’s songs when no one wants to sing and sometimes interrupt the program with a change in tune.

The Rev George Whitfield was an English born Anglican minister who is considered, along with the Wesley brothers, as one of the founders of Methodism. He came to America in 1740 and preached a series of sermons that became known as “the great awakening.” Like the Prophets,Whitfield was calling people to repentance and action. He did not do this with flashy worship services but by telling people what they needed to hear not what they wanted to hear. Whitfield had this to say about what I call prophetic preaching:

“It is a poor sermon that gives no offense; that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher.”

The prophet’s job and the preacher’s job is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.

The song that Zephaniah sings is a song that calls God’s people to lament and to repent. The Jerusalem of his day has become idolatrous and complacent; the nations have become corrupt and along comes Zephaniah as one crying in the darkness with the joyful imperative “Sing aloud… The Lord, your God, is in your midst.” “This day of darkness and gloom will be supplanted by a day of gladness.”

Unlike us, Zephaniah knows the future and the future will be different from the present and even different than the future that has been foreseen. It is import for us to listen to the prophets during Advent because centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ they were the messengers of the Good News, “Do not fear…. The Lord, your God, is in your midst.”

I am an amateur historian. I have no real formal training other than what I received in seminary. I dabble in the past and like to dress up from time to time in “period appropriate clothing” and stand in the pouring rain and the blazing heat and tell people what it was like to live in 18th and 19th century. I believe, as do most historians that a clear understanding of the past will help us in the present and the future. Our history does not and should not dictate our future, but understanding where we have come from will help us to determine the direction we go and point out the pitfalls along the way.

I also believe that what something meant in the past, songs,words, actions, etc. can say something different in the present at that we have to reevaluate those things and their present meaning continually. Sure, a favorite song in a different time might have sent a different message, but in our 21st-century world with our 21st century understanding of things, that song might be carrying an entirely different message.

In the past decade, or maybe even longer, we have witnessed church communities coming to grips with their past, much of it unpleasant, and asking for forgiveness for the things they had done. They are not trying to excuse it away, only asking for forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness is a very Christian thing to do. We have to own up to our past and understand it. We have to use our history as a guiding light toward the future. We need to come to grips with our past, and our role in it, so we do not make the same mistakes as  we move into the future.

Knowing our past is a good thing but dwelling back there is not good. I know many of us long for the days when the church was full with people and no one did anything on Sunday but go to church and then go home for the big family meal and some football on television. I hate to be the one to tell you but those days are gone, and they are never coming back. Our greatness is not in the past. We cannot point to a time and say “that is when we were great.” We can surely say, “that is when we were different”but greatness is not something from the past. Greatness is about our potential and living up to our potential. Jesus Christ was born into this world not to pass judgment on it but to point the way, give us a road map, to encourage us to live up to our potential in everything that we do.

Our potential, that untapped, undiscovered thing, is what makes us great not something that has already happened or a period of time in our past, but the sheer possibility of what is possible, that is where our greatness is, and that is what we have to look for.

Zephaniah tells us, “do not fear.” When the angel appears to Mary to announce to her that she is to become the mother of God, the first words the angel speaks to her are “Do not fear.” When Joseph is about to eject Mary and send her away, that same angel comes to him and says to him, “Do not fear.” When the shepherds, “keeping watch over their flocks by night,” are visited by that same angel, the first words the angel says to them is “Do not fear.” And, when Jesus comes and stands before his apostles in the Upper Room after the Resurrection, he says to them, “Do not fear.” And today, right here and right now, in this place, God is saying to you, “Do not fear.”

There are those out there that want you to be afraid. They want you to be fearful of people from different places. They want you to be scared of people who look different than we do. They want you to be afraid of people who believe and who worship differently than we do. They want you to be frightened by telling you God has turned his back on us as a nation because of specific political issues. They want you to believe that God meets outs his retribution on this nation with hurricanes, earthquakes, and fires. However, I am here to tell you, “Do not be afraid” for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that those who believe in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Do not be afraid because God loves you…..

Today we light the third candle of our Advent wreath. You will notice that it is a different color. The candles that surround it are purple which is not only the color of repentance but that of royalty. With each candle we light we bring a bit more light into the darkness and today we light the pink candle that represents joy. We pause in the season to remember that joy follows the darkness. “Behold I bring you tidings of great joy, for today in the City of David is born Christ the Lord.” This pink candle represents the future while the others represent the past. We have to stop longing for the way it was and start working on what it will be. We have to look forward into the future and rise to our potential and remind people that there is another way, that hatred, anger, and fear can be replaced by hope,love, joy, and peace and that is what Advent and Christmas is all about,reminding people that they no longer have to be afraid because God loves them and no matter what we do, that love will never change.

Sermon: Make Ready

A Sermon for the Second Sunday of Advent


Malachi 3:1-4
Matthew 24:36-44

Many, If not all of us, are preparing for something. I would hazard to guess that we are all preparing, in some way, for Christmas. I am preparing my sermons. The Choir is preparing hymns and carols. The church was beautifully decorated this past week, thank you to all who helped out with that. We are decorating our homes. We are shopping for gifts, writing out cards, and all the rest. Some of us are preparing to head south for the winter, packing, forwarding mail, stopping the newspaper, telling neighbors, etc. etc. etc. We are preparing, that’s good, that what Advent is all about, preparing.

The Prophet Malachi comes to us today with a message from God that God is sending his messenger to prepare the way. The messenger will suddenly appear. This will be the messenger of the covenant. This is good news, and the Prophet is happy to share it with those around him. But then comes the questions.

Malachi likes to ask questions in fact, his entire prophecy is about questions. “How has God loved us?” (1:2) “Has not God created us?” (2:10) “Where is the God of justice?” (2:17) “How shall we return to God?” (3:7) There are twenty-two questions in just fifty-five verses, Malachi has a lot of questions.

Having questions, questioning things that we once believed and now, not so much, is not a bad thing. Asking questions and engaging in dialogue is a healthy part of our spiritual life and one that I think we need to do more of. It is always a goal of mine, when writing a sermon, to leave you with questions, sometimes leaving you with more questions than answers, and it is my hope, that we ponder these questions and perhaps, seek out that answers. This is what allows us to grow spiritually and allows our faith to mature that that is what Malachi is doing.

But then, he changes is questions. He has just announced that the way is being made clear and then asks “But who can endure the day of his coming?” In other words, who is going to be ready if Jesus appeared right now?

Many years ago, before the internet, there was a cartoon in the newspaper that pictured a bunch of people standing around and one of them saying, “Jesus is coming, look busy.” Now it, like all cartoons are supposed to do, elicited a chuckle but what are we do in the day of his coming?

In the examples I have already used, we know the day, Christmas is December 25th and, those you heading south, know the day you will be leaving, but what about the day Jesus returns? The entirety of the Old Testament is about waiting for the day of the coming of the Lord, they were waiting for thousands of years, since “in the beginning” for the Messiah. They were in a constant state of Advent. Imagine how many candles their Advent Wreath had.

As you can imagine, some got quite bored with the whole thing and wandered off and did their own thing, then Moses comes along and reminds them of what they are waiting for. Gives them a list of things to do and rules for how to behave. So they wait, and more times passes, more folks get bored and wander off, so the Prophets come and warn people, but yet they wait, light more Advent candles, and nothing. Then, a baby is born, but more about that later.

So back to Malachi’s question, “who can abide?” But you’re asking, when is he coming? How can I be ready for his coming if I don’t know when he is coming? It’s like me telling you today at fellowship, I am going to pop over for a visit, be ready, and I walk away. You do not know when I am coming, but you need to be prepared.

Much is made about the date and time of the return of Jesus. We all know that Jesus told his Disciples that He was going to return as Christians we believe, as it says in the now famous Apostles Creed, that “he will come again to judge the living and the dead.” Preachers like Oral Roberts and Kimmy Swaggert predicted the date and time, well it has come and gone and no Jesus. Jim Bakker will sell you a five gallon pale of rapture food or some such thing, for $45 so you can be ready. The food has a long shelf life so no need to worry. Everyone seems to think they know when the Second coming is, well, coming. But, as we heard in the Gospel of Matthew, “But about the day and the hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Yup, you heard that right, Jesus does not even know when he is going to return but somehow these guys on the TV know.

Well, Jesus has the answer for that as well, funny how these guys never get to the end of the Scripture they like to quote, “Therefore you must also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” We do not know when he is coming so we better look busy.

So back to Malachi.

Malachi tells us that the one coming is, “like the refiner’s fire.” When metal is purified it is heated to its liquid state, and the impurities are removed from the top of the liquid, and then the metal is left to cool with all of the contaminants gone. We are the metal that needs purification but, unlike metal, we do not need to be heated to a liquid state for that to happen.

So how do we accomplish this? This refining? Well, you are doing it now, you are here, in the community, working out your faith. You ask questions, some rather difficult ones at times, and you seek out answers. You pray, daily, I hope, for direction from God on all matters large and small. You seek out a spiritual guide or director, who can lead you and direct you along the path. You read scripture, daily, I hope, to help you find those answers that you seek. You love God, and you love neighbor. You feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the “least of these” daily. This is how we refine ourselves, and this is how we prepare.

Following the example that Jesus left us, as best we can, is the way to refine ourselves. Just like athletes have to train daily, so we must prepare our spiritual lives daily. We make room in our busy lives for what is essential, well, this is important, so we need to make room in the Inn of our lives to spend some time, daily, with God.

For generations, these passages have been used to keep people in fear. Preachers have used these passages, and ones like them, to make the people afraid and then to impose laws and regulations on them, and seek donations, to keep them on the right path. For generations religion has been about fear, well, on this second Sunday of Advent, I am here to tell you that religion is not about fear religion is about love. Religion should be about inclusion, not exclusion. I have mentioned this before that God’s love does not exclude anyone, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The verse says “whoever” not “those who follow these rules.” EVERYONE!

God saw that things were not working, his messengers were not getting his message across, so he sent his Son to show us the way. Jesus did not just tell us, he showed us and left us an example of how to refine, of how to be ready, and about how to love, without conditions. The message of the Scripture today, the message of Advent, The message of Christmas, the message of the entire Gospel is that God loves you right here and right now and has opened the doors for us.

Do not wait, for we do not know the day or the hour. Just like you do not wait until the last minute to prepare for a trip, do not wait to prepare your spiritual life. But always remember, God loves you.

The Real St. Nicholas

One of the things I believe the Protestant Reformers got wrong was removing any sense of devotion to saints. I understand the reason behind their objection but this, like other things, just went too far and we have removed a vibrant part of the history of the Universal Church. One of those saints is traditionally celebrated on December 6th, St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, the inspiration for Santa Clause.

It is believed that Nicholas was born in the late 3rd century in Patara, Lycia in Asia Minor to wealthy Christian parents and was an early Christian bishop of the ancient Greek city of Myra in Asia Minor (modern-day Demre, Turkey) during the time of the Roman Empire. Like most saints of that period, their life is not truly known; however, several legends are attributed to his life.

One of his earliest acts is said to have been rescuing three young girls from being forced into prostitution by secretly dropping sacks of gold coins, for three nights, through the window of their father’s house enabling his to pay the dowry for each of his daughters. It is from this legend that the tradition of placing shoes out on the eve of St. Nicholas day (December 5th) and placing gold coins and other small gifts in them.  This secret gift giving is also where the tradition of the modern day Santa Clause comes from.

But, my favorite story comes from the first Church Council held in Nicea in the 325 AD. During that council, speakers would drown on for hours about deep spiritual and theological subjects.  At some point during the debates, Nicholas had enough with one particular speaker Arius, who was later declared a heretic by the same council. Legend has it, Nicholas, totally exasperated with what Arius was saying, left his seat, walked over to Arius while he was speaking, and punched him in the face. This action landed Nicholas in jail, and he was forced to repent and offer an apology to Arius. It appears that not all saints always acted in a holy way.

There is much to be learned from the life of St. Nicholas, punching heretics notwithstanding, about sacrificial giving and helping those who are in need which is the real spirit of Christmas. We have the opportunity to support the “least of these” on Christmas Eve with the hat and mitten tree.  Please consider a donation while you are out shopping. Just like the gift of gold coins St. Nicholas dropped through the window, your contribution might just save someone’s life.

This essay first appeared in the Newsletter of First Congregational Church of Salem, New Hampshire as my “From the Pastor” column.

Sermon: Sign of Things to Come

A Sermon for the First Sunday of Advent 2018

 

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” Jeremiah 33:14-16

Today we begin our journey towards the birth of the Christ child on the morning of Christmas. Today, in a time of hustle and bustle, the church is calling us to slow down, to prepare, to wait, and to anticipate the coming of the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, and the prince of peace. If there was ever a time that the church is calling us to live in a way that is counter cultural it is during the season of Advent.

Today we lit the first candle on our advent wreath. The circle of evergreen that will be a reminder to us that God’s love is eternal just as the circle is eternal and that is love for us will not change, just as the green on the branches will not change regardless of the harshness of the season. We lit the first candle, the one that represents hope, the flame of hope that we will carry with us out into the world of darkness in the hope of bringing just a little light that might brighten the day of someone we meet.

Each week we will light another one, hope, joy, peace, and love until we finally come to the eve of his birth and we light the large white candle in the center. It is white to denote the purity not only of Jesus but of God’s love for us that he sent his son to live like us so we might have an advocate with the father. With the lighting of that final candle the wreath will sit ablaze with the light of our prayers and the warmth of the love that we are to share with one another. This is the advent season. The Advent season opens us to the mystery and centrality of the presence of God in the world and in our lives.

I understand that the world wants us to start our shopping and our celebrating but this is not the time. I also understand that in our world today we have to begin all of this early but we also need to make time for the important season of advent and the lessons that we have to learn. Just like we cannot have Easter without Lent and Good Friday, we cannot have Christmas, we cannot truly understand the message of Christmas if we do not pause to at least acknowledge Advent.

Advent calls us to a time of repentance and reconciliation and the liturgical colors remind us of that.  The covering on the pulpit and communion table have changed to purple. The color has changed to remind us that the season has changed and to cause us to think about relationships that need tending to and perhaps mending. Purple is also used during the time of Lent for the same reason and the early church considered Advent another Lenten season with the same themes.

In my “From the Pastor” column this week I quoted from the Orthodox Christian theologian Thomas Hopko, “Jesus lay as an infant in the cavern in the reign of Caesar Augustus that he might lay in the tomb under Pontius Pilate. He was hounded by Herod that he might be caught by Caiaphas. He was buried in baptism that he might descend into death through the cross. He was worshipped by wise men that the whole of creation might adore him in his triumph over death.”  You see there is a connection and a continuity to the entire church years.

But this first Sunday of Advent we think about hope. I do not think there is a better time than right now to think about hope. There is not much to be hopeful about. Politics has us on edge, another survey about the decline of the church; suicide rates are at an all-time high and have now affected the life expectancy here in the United States, racism, white supremacy, nationalism, anti-Semitism, opioids and all the rest. There does not seem to be much to be hopeful about, but as Christians we have to be.

The word hope appears 129 times in scripture, in 105 verses, 40 chapter, and 28 books the word hope stands out for us. I would suggest that the entire New Testament is about hope. God sent his Son to give us hope. Jesus was born to give us hope. Jesus called the 12 to give us hope. Jesus healed the sick, made the lame walk, restored sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf to give us hope. Jesus fed 5,000 refugees when they came to him to give us hope. Jesus walked alone to his death to give us hope. And Jesus rose from the dead to give us hope. The entire Gospel, the good news, is about hope and so it is hope that we must have for we have no other choice.

I do not usually find my inspiration for sermons from the writings of the Prophets of the Old Testament but Advent lends itself well to their writings. The Prophetic works announce the coming of Christ in some of the most poetic fashion that entire works of music have been composed using only their writings, so I thought this year, I would give it a shot.

Jeremiah comes to us today with his pronouncement of hope for his generation and for us.

“The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.” “In those days.” And “At that time.” “This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.”

Jeremiah is telling those listening, and us, that the day of righteousness is coming. This righteousness is not an attitude or an absolute standard by which we are to govern our lives, righteousness is how we conduct our lives and how we do God’s purpose in this world, love God and love neighbor. We are called through the righteousness that Jeremiah speaks of to do good by doing the good things of God, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the least of these the anawim of God, the ones crying out for a better life and stand with their brokenness at our front door. We are called to doing not just being the hands and feet of God in this world. We are called to make disciples of all by loving all, without question and without condition. The righteousness that Jeremiah is speaking of is a humble ethic of living towards others in justice and loving relationships.

In a few moments the elements that have been placed on the Communion table will be uncovered and I will invite you to come to the table, not because you must but because you can. The Sacrament that we will observe this morning nourishes us by the hope of God’s coming and it also allows us to participate in the future, we get a glimpse of what is possible by the breaking and sharing of the bread and the cup when one will go hungry or thirsty. This is the sacrament of love, the sacrament of justice, and the sacrament of righteousness, and all are invited to participate in it.

Our Advent journey continues and we are reminded to “prepare Ye the way of the Lord.” And we do that by preparing not only our homes but our hearts. We make room under the tree of our hearts for the gift that God has given us, his Son, Jesus Christ.

The First Sunday of Advent: Hope

For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.
Isaiah 60:2

Introductory Sentences

Today is the beginning of Advent – the preparation time for celebrating Christ’s birth. We are here because God’s promises to our ancestors came true when Jesus was born. God’s promise is kept each Sunday when we worship because Christ is in our midst. God will keep the promise to come again in glory.

Lighting of the Candle

We light this candle to proclaim the coming of the light of God into the world. With the coming of this light there is hope. Because of Christ we not only have hope, but we believe that good is stronger than evil. God wants us to work for good in this world.

Prayer

O God, we thank you that Jesus brought hope into our world. By the good news of the Bible you are still bringing hope to people. Help us to be ready to welcome Jesus Christ so that we may be a people of hope in our world. Amen.

Book of Worship, United Church of Christ

The Advent Wreath

They come in all sizes and with a variety of candle colors but where did the Advent Wreath come from and how did it become so popular?

The Advent Wreath traces its lineage to 16th century German Lutherans, but it was not until 1839 when Johann Hinrich Wichern really started to use it.  Hinrich was a pioneer in the concept of Urban Ministry and seeing the inpatients of the children preparing for Christmas he devised wreath of sorts. He began with a wooden circle with 19 small red candles and four larger ones. Every morning a small candle was lit and on Sunday’s one of the larger ones. Custom has only the larger ones as part of the wreath now.

But what about the symbolism of the wreath itself?

The wreath is customarily constructed of evergreen to signify life during all of the seasons of the year. The evergreen also reminds us that God’s love for us will never fade. It is fashioned in a perfect circle to symbolize the eternity of God and God’s unbroken love for us. Four candles are placed around the wreath. In some churches, all the candles are purple whilst in other churches three are purple and one is rose or pink.  Sometimes blue is used as well rather than purple. In the center of the wreath is a larger candle called the “Christ Candle” that is lit on Christmas Eve and Christmas day and all Sunday’s including Epiphany.

The Advent Wreath, with all of its candles, did bring more light into the church at a time when electric and even gas lamps were not used, but the spiritual significance of the wreath and the light is to illuminate the people with the light and the warmth of the coming of Christ into the world.

The four weeks of Advent each have a theme that corresponds to one of the candles. These themes focus on the four virtues that Jesus brings: hope, love, joy, and peace. There are other themes as well: Prophets, angels, shepherds, and the Magi as well as additional theological themes of the forgiveness of Adam and Eve, the faith of the Abraham and the Prophets, the joy of David, and the Teaching of the Prophets concerning justice and peace.

The center candle, the Christ candle, is lit on Christmas Eve as a sign of the completing of the Advent journey and the announcement of the birth of the Christ Child. With all of the candles of the wreath lit the full light of Christ has come into the world, and the “people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” Isaiah 9:2