We celebrate the season of Advent the four Sundays before Christmas.
As a child growing up in a Baptist church, I'd never heard of Advent or seen the candles.
Later, as a Baptist pastor's wife, I discovered the Advent wreath and the beautiful picture it represents. I introduced it one Sunday in our small church.
One elderly lady in the congregation was not amused. "Are we becoming Catholic now?" She grumbled every Sunday. I don't think the celebration ever made a positive impression on her.
Too bad. The lighting of the candles are a visual reminder of Christmas. We celebrate through depiction the coming of Christ into the world, His birth. We also illustrate His return to earth, the second coming of Christ. The wreath’s circle represents eternity. Just as the sphere has no beginning or end, God is also eternal. The evergreen is always green and symbolizes life, growth and hope.
The candles signify the time of preparation for the birth of Jesus. Purple symbolizes royalty. Pink symbolizes love and the time is near. The white candle is the Christ candle.
I'm the music minister in our little congregation, and every Advent Sunday, I begin each service with the hymn by Charles Wesley, "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus." This brings a groan from the pianist. The song is not easy to sing or play, but the words are perfect for the Christian waiting for the return of Christ.
1. Come, Thous long expected Jesus, Born to set They people free;
From our fears and sins release us; Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel's strength and consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart.
2. Born They people to deliver, Born a Child, and yet a King.
Born to reign in us forever, Now They gracious Kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit Rule in all our hearts alone.
By Thine all sufficient merit, Raise us to Thy glorious throne.
I suppose some Christians traditions are beloved by some while others frown on them. A few habitually complain about offerings--they don't like to give. A few attendees complain about music. It's either too traditional or too contemporary. There's always one or two who think the preacher holds the parishioner hostage with a long sermon. And the beat goes on.
A good reminder for all of us is this: we are in church to worship. What brings inspiration or revelation to one may not be the identical elements that bring reverence and devotion to another. Music speaks to one. Stained glass windows to others. The sermon brings enlightenment to a few ears while others ignore it. In other words, God wants us to use all tools at our disposal to bring honor to Him. If one element doesn't speak to you, God has plenty of others at His disposal. Open your mind, eyes, ears, and hearts. He is there for you.