written by Diane Talbot-Schoenhoff
“This then is to watch: to be detached from what is present, and to live in the thought of Christ as he came once, and as he will come again; to desire his second coming from our affectionate and grateful remembrance of his first.” ~ John Henry Newman, 19th Century English Bishop
The Meaning of the Advent Wreath
Advent is a liturgical practice leading up to Christmas that began in the early seventeenth century. It celebrates both the coming to earth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as an infant, and a looking forward with hopeful expectation to his second coming. What makes the Advent period so profoundly meaningful to Christians is that it reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas—that Christ is the light of the world, and in us He is the hope of glory.
During this four-week period preceding Christmas, Gather will observe this practice with Advent readings and prayers for you, our Gather Women. Traditionally, a candle is lit each Sunday symbolizing a different aspect of spiritual preparation: hope, peace, joy, love and culminating in the lighting of the fifth candle, the Christ candle, on Christmas day.
The Candle of Hope
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” 1Peter 1:3-6.
Hope. What is hope? Is it merely wishful thinking or a kind of strong desire for a certain outcome to happen? Thankfully for the Christ follower, hope means so much more. Hope is not based on chance circumstances or a crossing of one’s fingers and hoping for the best. Rather, hope is a confident and certain expectation. Ours is a living hope given us through the resurrections of Jesus Christ from the dead, and a promised future inheritance that will not perish.
As believers, we are hopeful because our hope comes from God, the God of hope himself, who is faithful to keep his promises. Long ago, God had promised the Israelites a saviour, their Messiah, would come from the lineage of Jesse. And come Jesus did—exactly as was prophesied. “And again Isaiah says, ‘The Root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.’ May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:12-13
So as we light the first Advent candle together, we are filled with the hope that comes from God by the power of the Holy Spirit, and we are confident as we await the promised final coming. Now that is the kind of hope we can all count on.
“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27
During this time of remembrance and preparation, O God, as we light the hope candle, we pray that you would help us focus our eyes on you, the light of the world. Lord, we ask that you would cause us to be ready to welcome and receive you. As your word says, that the God of hope himself, would fill us with all joy and peace in believing, abounding in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. That you would make known to us how great are the riches of the glory of your mystery. That we would realize the certainty and the hope of Christ in us, the hope of glory. And as we wait, may we observe the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, constant in prayer.” In Jesus’ precious and holy name we pray.
Diane Talbot-Schoenhoff is Founder and Executive Director of Support in Motion (SIM). She holds a BA from Queen’s University, Masters Degree in Linguistics and Translation from L’Université de Montréal, and a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism. When her son sustained a spinal cord injury in a snowboarding accident at 13, she assisted him with a five-year intensive, neurological rehabilitation program. As a result of her family’s experience, she worked in communications at Bloorview Kids Foundation, and sat on the Family Advisory Board at Bloorview Kids Rehab.