The season of Advent, which comes from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming” or “visit,” begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year for Christians and will begin this year on December 1st.
During Advent, we prepare for, and anticipate, the coming of Christ. We remember the longing of Jews for a Messiah and our own longing for, and need of, forgiveness, salvation and a new beginning. Even as we look back and celebrate the birth of Jesus in a humble stable in Bethlehem, we also look forward anticipating the second coming of Christ as the fulfillment of all that was promised by his first coming.
The Advent wreath was originally a German and Scandinavian home devotional practice used to mark the four weeks of Advent. Although many symbols have been attributed to it since that time, it was originally intended as a way to mark the Advent season and the weeks until Christmas.
Families would light a candle for each past week and the current week at their dinner or evening time of prayer. The configuration of candles, whether in a line or a circle, did not matter. Neither did the color of the candles (all colors are used in homes in Europe). What mattered was the marking of time and the increase of light each week in the face of increasing darkness as the winter solstice approached.
As Advent wreaths began to be used by congregations on Sundays in some places in Europe and America beginning in the late 19th century, adaptations were needed for the larger worship spaces. Candles needed to be larger and more specialized than the “daily candles” handmade or purchased for home use. They also needed to be more uniform in color to fit with other decor in the sanctuary. Purple (and more recently blue) has become the basic color of the candles to coordinate with color of the paraments used during this season.
As Advent wreaths changed from practical private use to the more symbolic context of public worship, it became important for the candles to have meaning rather than simply mark time and add light. Ceremonies were developed around the lighting of the candles each week. We will continue this tradition by asking members of the congregation to come forward to light the advent candles during our Sunday services.
In time there was an effort, largely spurred by church supply houses that sold the special candles and wreaths, to provide a particular meaning to each candle. The themes of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace became popular, based on scriptures from the one-year lectionaries used at that time. However, the historic theme of Advent is more broad and deep than any one-word theme can capture.
So what are we to say, then, about the meaning of the Advent wreath today? We can still draw meaning from its original home use: to mark time while increasing light. Advent, the first season of the Christian year, is all about time. We await the day described in Revelation 21:23 when, “The city doesn’t need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because God’s glory is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” At Christmas we celebrate that in Christ, “The true light that shines on all people was coming into the world” (John 1:9).
Peace in Jesus
Thoughts from the Pastor…
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” – Mark 9:24
One of the lessons I am continuing to learn about is humility. Like a lot of us believers, there are times when we think we are humble until we face a challenging situation that threatens our strength and confidence in who we are, what we do, or what we think we are good at. There are times when I feel a sense of sadness griping into my heart and I have no idea what brings it on and why. I typically just brush it off and ignore it, rather than going to God in prayer and asking for help as to how to get the root cause of this sudden slow sadness. You see, for me, these feelings don’t last long as I am able to compartmentalize these types of feelings. In other words, I am able to push them down and move on. After years of dealing with stuff in my life this way, one becomes good at wearing a mask. And even when we come to the knowledge of who God really is, we still wear masks. We often wear what I call “the good Christian mask”.
The story of Jesus healing a possessed by in the book of Mark has caused me to realize that I don’t have to wear any kind of mask; instead it’s okay to ask God for help when I am having difficulty with unbelief and lacking in my faith. Because Faith is an attitude of trust and confidence of things we hope for and an assurance of what we have not seen but believe. The Bible tells us in Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” To earnestly seek God means to be sincere, or with serious intent to obtain wisdom, knowledge and understanding of God not only that but to live by them in our daily lives as believers.
No matter how much faith we may think we have, we can never reach the point of being self-sufficient. Faith is a constant process of a daily renewing of our trust and confidence in Jesus by reading our Bible and asking Him for guidance and understanding through prayer. I am learning each day to humble myself before my heavenly Father for help to increase my faith and unbelief when I find myself in challenging situations. This type of prayer for me is a way of surrendering to God all of our weaknesses so He can then become strong. That’s faith in action.
Why do we gather at church on Sunday mornings?
For some, it may just be tradition. That is what you have done since you were a kid. For some, it might be an opportunity to socialize with friends that you may not get a chance to see during the week. Some of you may have responsibilities at the church, and so you’ve got to be there. For others, it might be the most important thing you do all week. The true reason for us to gather together on Sunday morning as a church, is to worship God.
Honest worship takes our eyes off ourselves and sets them on God. Scripture’s best-known worship leader, David, wrote this…”Honor the LORD you heavenly beings; honor the LORD for the glory of his name. Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness” (Psalm 29: 1-2 NLT). When we gather as the church and truly worship Him, it gives God the honor He deserves.
The idea is that we can gather on Sunday and celebrate together all that God has done for us. Through our songs of praise, our prayers, our confessions, and our honoring of the sacraments, we fix our eyes on God and the prize that awaits us. By doing so, the hope is that we will be given the strength and the focus needed to get us through the week. In everything that we do, continuing to keep the Kingdom in our sights. The Apostle Paul wrote, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him” (Romans 12: 1 NLT).
Why do we gather at church on Sunday mornings? It’s not about us. It’s all about HIM!
Greetings in Christ!
It is with great appreciation to the Lord Jesus Christ and His leading in my life that I will begin my journey here at Westville UnitedMethodist Church serving as your pastor.
I would like to take this opportunity to send you a note of thanks for the warm welcome I have already received, and I am looking forward to joyous and fruitful ministry in the years to come.
Just a little information about myself…my name is Toby Guill (pronounced Gill) and I am 48 years old. My wife’s name is Kim, and I’ll just let you ask her how old she is. Together, we have a son named Zachary who is 24 years old and is in the process of discerning his call to ministry. Our home, which is located in Burns Harbor, is rounded out with our two dogs – Gracie and Cooper.
I have a full-time position at Arcelor Mittal Steel in Burns Harbor where I work “shift-work” on the Pickle Line. This type of work schedule keeps me from having what some might call a “normal life”. I, however, vow to make myself available to everyone via phone, text, or email. I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat – (I’m just not very good at using all of them.)
I accepted Jesus as my Savior on July 9, 2008 after a drowning incident at Lake Michigan. I accepted my call to ministry only a couple of years ago and became a Licensed Local Pastor in December of 2018. I have been serving as pastor in Whiting Indiana for the past year and a half. I am currently enrolled in Course of Study classes where I am learning so much about being an effective leader in the church and I anticipate graduating in about nine years. (Don’t order the cake yet.)
I look forward to meeting each one you, if not for the first time – then meeting you again.
I’m super excited!
Pastor Toby Guill