The Christmas season starts today. It is the beginning of the Advent in all Christian communities around the world, by way of remembering and celebrating the arrival of Jesus on Earth.
Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming”. It thus refers to the coming birth of Jesus Christ and the return of Christ during the second coming.
At the first Advent, Jesus came in the weakness of infancy to become the suffering servant of those who were hopelessly lost; in the Second Advent, He will come as the sovereign king of kings and the lord of lords.
The Season of Advent is, thus, a reflection of the importance of Christ in our lives to properly prepare us to celebrate Christ’s birth and also to be ready at anytime to His second coming at a future time.
While the Catholic church encourages the faithful to make the Advent a period of spiritual preparation, which typically involves prayer, fasting and repentance, these practices are lost in this maze of commercialism which spins the hypnotic ball of gift-giving into the spirit of charity, even love, exploiting the generosity of the season.
As early as September, melodious sounds of Christmas start to blare in the airwaves and social media is flooded with advertisements on gift-giving, celebrations, vacations, cruises, bargain sales, party venues, catering and just about everything that anyone, not only Christians, are enticed to buy, in the spirit of Christmas. This methodical brainwashing for decades has made Christmas the all-time blockbuster.
In fact, Christmas is also the season for fund-raising, especially for groups and associations, from civic, religious, political and just about any group who could sing Christmas songs, caroling from door to door or by holding a Christmas concert.
But as we prepare for Advent, we must not lose focus on why we celebrate Christmas. Yes, it is a time of togetherness, especially for the family; a time for gift-giving; a time for forgi-ving; taking stock of ourselves in order to be better versions of ourselves. After all, Jesus Christ preached that the greatest commandments from which the Ten Commandments were drawn from are to love God and to love our neighbor as thyself.
During Advent, the use of the wreath and candles are a Catholic tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages as part of their spiritual preparations for Christmas. There are four candles of Advent representing the four Sundays of Advent, each symbolizing hope, peace, joy and love. They are traditionally contained in the Advent wreath which symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life we find in God.
On this first Sunday of Advent, the Candle of Hope is lit in all the churches before the mass is celebrated. It is also called the Prophecy Candle, as we recall the prophecy of Isaiah of the birth of Christ and the fulfilment of God’s promises in the Old Testament. The second candle is the Candle of Peace, otherwise called the Candle of Bethlehem, to remind us of the journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem where Mary gave birth to Jesus and the light of peace shone forth from Bethlehem for all the world. On the third Sunday of Advent or the Gaudete Sunday, the Candle of Joy or the Shepherd’s Candle is lit to recall the shepherds’ joy and rejoicing as the angel appeared to them and shared the news of the birth of Jesus. The fourth Candle of Advent is the Candle of Love, also called the Angel’s Candle. It is lit the Sunday before Christmas as a reminder of the ultimate love of God in sending His only son for us.
Here’s wishing for peace in the world, especially in Israel and Ukraine.