Advent: Preparation in Hope
By Rev Doh Chuan Ning
November 27, 2022
Year after year, many churches plan worship services, personal devotionals and Bible reading according to the Church Year and the deeds of Jesus Christ on earth to help believers remember and relive the experience of the saving grace of Jesus Christ and “connect with the Lord” more deeply in daily life. Advent (meaning “coming”) is the first festival of the church year. It is a “preparation period” to prepare hearts in anticipation of the birth of the Lord Jesus (First Advent). It is also a “waiting period” as we look forward to His second coming (Second Advent). Therefore, in addition to remembering the birth of Jesus, Advent also reminds us to prepare ourselves to meet the Lord.
Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. During Advent, some churches put up an “Advent Wreath” in accordance with tradition to guide believers. The wreath has three purple candles, one pink candle and one white candle. The church would light one candle each Sunday (the purple candles would be lit on the first, second and fourth Sundays and the pink candle on the third Sunday). This is to signify that the return of Christ is getting closer and closer. On Christmas Eve, the church would light the big white candle in the middle of the wreath, signifying that Jesus (the light of the world) has come to us. The light of the candle symbolizes the light of Christ. The light comes to the world, dispels darkness and shines on “those living in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:79).
Traditionally, the church designates four themes for the four Sundays in Advent (which vary slightly among different traditions) to guide believers to prepare themselves. The theme for the first Sunday is “Awakening.” This is because nobody knows when Christ will return. We must always be prepared, reflect on our lives and deeds to see if we have done anything wrong or trespassed against God. The second Sunday would be themed “Repentance.” When we understand our trespasses, we should sincerely repent to God and rectify the wrong, actively improve ourselves and regulate the part of our life that is off-track. The third Sunday is “Joy.” We rejoice not just because we have experienced the birth of Christ for our sake so we are freed from sin, but also because we are living with the good news that “the Lord is near” and so we should await His return with hearts of joy and eager expectation. The fourth Sunday is “Love and Light.” We welcome the birth of Jesus Christ with joy and delight. He has brought us love and light. We should also give thoughts to practicing the will of the LORD in our daily lives, to bring love and light to the world.
Advent says a lot about the meaning of faith as well as tradition and culture. It also prepares our spiritual lives. Through reflection on our lives, believers engage in purification of the self and wait devoutly for the return of Christ. Advent also helps us focus on the work of salvation of Christ’s coming, so we can once again receive and take part in the Savior’s redemption work to bring faith, hope and lovingkindness to this era when truth is distorted and black and white is confused. May this Advent be a time you will encounter the gracious Lord, connect with Him more deeply and renew your commitment to Him.