Another Advent season is upon us, and it is a welcome season of hope as the church recalls the promises of God that are fulfilled in Christ. These weeks are the perfect time to reconcile, to renew commitments, to realign our hearts and minds to spiritual things we may have neglected in the midst of living busy lives.
Advent precedes Christmas. The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival” and reminds us of the period of time before Christmas when we anticipate the coming or arrival of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Though Jesus was born on earth over two thousand years ago, each year we celebrate how His birth changed the world forever. The word Advent also reminds us that He will come again, and we look forward to that day as well.
On each of the four Sundays of Advent, Nashville First Baptist celebrates by lighting one new candle on the Advent wreath. Church members used as candle lighters represent the diversity of our congregation. The slow procession down the aisle intentionally slows the pace of this busy, commercialized season, subtly reminding us all to prepare for God’s loving presence among us.
The imagery is significant. The four candles help us think about God’s gifts of hope, peace, joy, and love, all of which find their complete revelation in Jesus Christ. The evergreen wreath reminds us that God’s promises never die.
In the center of the Advent wreath is the white Christ candle. It signifies the purity of the spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This candle is lit on Christmas Eve, marking the end of Advent and the beginning of Christmas. We celebrate Advent because it helps us prepare for Christmas as a congregation and as individuals.
One of the things I anticipate each year about Christmas at First is the music. Children sing, handbells ring, our Sanctuary Choir shares well-rehearsed anthems both reverent and festive. Best of all, the congregation sings together the carols of Christmas. Listen to the sacred songs of the season with an ear for the music but also with a heart finely tuned to the message. Listen for lines that praise God for His greatest gift to us—Jesus’ birth.
God continues to send His Son into every new generation and, indeed, every new life. Those who accept Jesus as Savior and Lord realize the miracle of His coming to earth, born as an infant according to God’s plan to shed light on God’s love and to become the sacrifice for our sins. Incredibly, our redemption was and is Jesus’ appointed mission from God. He is God’s greatest gift to us.
May God richly bless you this Advent!
Frank R. Lewis