Daytona Swarbrick (International Volunteer, Canada) reflects on the season of advent:
Time. I remember it not feeling real. The clock was relentless. The sun coming through the windows seemed frozen in time, yet in that moment, there was nothing I could do to wrestle time into submission. A countdown had started that could not be stopped. As my brother lay in the hospital bed we were told he had two weeks. I would rather not be present to the reality that was coming, but you have to be if you want to make the most it. Making the most of it is awkward when all you can think of is the time past and what remains.
In fourth grade I thought to myself, “I’ve done so much school already. If I do this much twice more I’ll be done.” Aside from realizing I was working out mathematical fractions, I was trying to live and imagine myself at a point outside of real time.
Christmas was a very special time for me as a child, which isn’t the case for many children around the world, but I knew there would be a special gift waiting for me on the morning of December 25th. The anticipation of this time was almost too much to take. My brother and I would wake up before anyone else and sneak out to the family room to the Christmas tree. We anticipated the morning for a month and we just couldn’t wait to see what surprise would be there for us. After marveling at the tree and the gifts, we’d sneak back to bed and try to sleep until we heard someone else get out of bed.
Time is strange.
It is an obstacle that you can’t truly go under, over, or around. You can only go through it. You can’t rush to the good parts and avoid the bad parts.
The season of Christmas extends from Christmas Eve and lasts for twelve days, ending on January 6. The time leading up to Christmas is called Advent. The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming” or “visit.” During Advent we prepare ourselves and anticipate the remembrance and celebration of the Messiah who came, the Anointed One who still comes and intervenes in life today, and the Christ in the age to come!
It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness!
It is common in churches that follow the Advent season to use the symbol of lighting candles on each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas as part of their liturgical worship - marking the stages of time and how we focus our experience moving through it. What do the Advent Candles stand for? There is no one right answer, but commonly they are as follows:
The first candle is a symbol of hope
The second candle is a symbol of God's peace
The third candle is a symbol of love
The fourth candle is a symbol of joy
The fifth candle represents the birth of Jesus - which is lit on Christmas day
This year my worship during Advent season will involve lighting candles and sitting with the following scriptures to feel and anticipate the coming of Jesus.
Colossians 1:15-20, New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA) | He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
First Sunday of Advent - November 29
Light candle 1
Jeremiah 33:14-16 (NRSVA) | The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
Second Sunday of Advent - December 6
Light candle 1 and 2
Malachi 3:1-4 (NRSVA) | See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight – indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
Third Sunday of Advent - December 13
Light candle 1, 2 and 3
Philippians 4:4-7 (NRSVA) | Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Fourth Sunday of Advent - December 20
Light candle 1, 2, 3 and 4
Luke 1:46-55 (NRSVA) | In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’
Christmas Day - December 25
Light candle 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
Isaiah 9:2+6 | The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
My wife Kristi and I have been with Hands at Work for over three years. We were married 18 years ago in the Vancouver area of Canada where we came from to be at Hands. I serve on the Communications Team at the Hub in South Africa. Growing up I always thought I’d be a rock star, but history had something else in store for me. If my music wasn’t going to change the world, certainly I could contribute some small thing to building God’s Kingdom. I have no claim to fame. I have not written a book or won an election, but feel free to ask me about my cat! - Daytona