The season of Advent officially begins today with the 1st Sunday of Advent.
Advent is an exciting time especially for children. Because as they see Christmas decorations appearing on the streets and shopping malls and everywhere else, they also want to be part of this decoration excitement. They too would want some Christmas decoration at home, so parents would have to drag out the Christmas tree and untangle the lights and search for those other Christmas decorations tucked away somewhere in the house.
But as much as most Christmas decorations have some kind of spiritual meaning, there is one that stands out from the rest and it symbolizes the season of Advent. At the beginning of the Mass, we blessed the Advent wreath and we lighted the first candle of the wreath.
The Advent wreath is rich in symbols. The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent in which we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The circular wreath symbolizes the eternity of God who is without beginning or end, and that He loves us with an everlasting love. The evergreens of holly and pine represent our hope in the saving love of God, a hope which is fulfilled in the birth of the Savior and the hope of eternal salvation.
As Advent progresses, from the 1st week to the 4th week, the number of candles, are lighted accordingly. This has a profound spiritual meaning; Jesus, the light of world is coming to scatter the darkness of our sins, and with each passing week, the light of the candles in the Advent wreath grows brighter in preparation to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the true light.
So, in Church, the Advent wreath is the symbol of the Advent season and it is placed within the sanctuary to remind us of the need to prepare ourselves spiritually for the celebration of Christmas. And as in Church, so it should be at home. Especially with the children, we the parents and adults must keep the spiritual traditions alive and find meaning and direction for our faith in the Advent season. With the stress and busyness of life, the family hardly has time for prayer, and if parents and adults do not lead the way and show the way, the children would not have any spiritual directions to follow.
So, Advent is like a spiritual alarm clock that rings into our hearts and bids us to wake up and prepare ourselves for the coming of our Savior. Yes, we must wake up but as like most mornings, the alarm clock wakes us up and then we put it to snooze and we fall back to sleep.
That’s why in the gospel, Jesus urges us to stay awake, and be on our guard against complacency and carelessness. More so in this time of Advent when we should be preparing ourselves with prayer, we will be tempted to busy ourselves with shopping for gifts and just getting materially prepared for Christmas but neglecting the spiritual aspects.
So, if we don’t have an Advent wreath, then it would certainly be meaningful to get one. Jesus wants to come into our lives with His light and blessings. He wants to bring us healing from the darkness of our sins and help us be reconciled with one another especially in the family.
He wants to be in our families so that we can experience His love and joy and peace with each other. But we must invite Him, and the Advent wreath would be the means to bring the family together in prayer and to let the light of Christ shine in our hearts and bring about the warmth of love and peace that we always wanted for our families and for ourselves.
We only need to stay awake and be vigilant in prayer. Lighting the candles of the Advent wreath and praying together as a family may be a little and humble act but the blessings that Jesus gives will be bountiful.
We just have to stay awake in prayer to receive true blessings.