Advent celebrates the coming of Christ

Michael Miller

Advent -- Latin for "to come to" -- is a time of preparation for Christians. Preparation to celebrate the first coming of Jesus and preparation for his second coming.

It comprises the four Sundays before Christmas. One of the traditional ways to mark the season leading up to Christmas is to light candles in an Advent wreath. One candle is lit the first week, two the second week, and so on. Prayers and brief devotions also are offered.

In some traditions, each candle represents a different aspect of faith. The candles are typically purple or blue, representing penitence, except for the third week's candle, which is pink or rose to represent joy. We asked four local ministers to craft mini-devotions on four aspects of Advent: hope, humility, joy and peace.

Hope: First candle

During this time, we look forward to, first, the coming of Christ at the end of time and, second, the coming of the Christ Child on Christmas.

Christ will come once again as both our judge and savior and we prepare ourselves for that return.

In many of our churches, we follow the Scandinavian tradition of vesting our altars in the color of blue.

Blue, the color of heaven, signifies anticipation or hope.

We await Christ's coming in hope when he will return and redeem our world and make all things new.

- The Rev. James R. Lillie, pastor, First English Lutheran Church of Peoria

Humility: Second candle

Humility is a spiritual discipline hard to learn, yet harder to live out. Related to the Latin word humus, humility is "of the soil," literally "down to earth."

To be humble is to be grounded in the reality of one's self, not straining to false heights of power, influence or importance.

A Christian's motivation to learn humility is that Our Lord Jesus exemplified this attitude, even to death on the cross.

False humility pretends to be self-abasing to gain attention. True humility recognizes our limitations, in relation to God and to others.

"Lord, grow in me the seed of humility, that I may share the abundance of your perfect life."

- The Rev. John Spencer, pastor, St. Francis Church, Dunlap

Joy: Third candle

Be of great Joy! The angel said, "I bring you tidings of comfort and great joy."

This advent we wait and watch while being full of joy and hope. But is it that easy? I can be a person of joy this week if I remember why I am doing what I am doing. This may be one of the best gifts I can give another today, simply strive to be a person of joy, a sign of God's love and the very presence that we celebrate and we await.

So be of good cheer. Be not frazzled, frustrated or frantic! You can consciously choose to be happy, loving, peaceful, joyous, calm and festive. Joy is the infallible sign of God's presence. Let us wait and watch in joy.

- Monsignor Paul Showalter, vicar general of the Catholic Diocese of Peoria

Peace: Fourth candle

The "Peace Candle" reminds us that we are waiting not just for Christmas, but also for the day of Christ's return. The prophets promised to a fallen and sinful humanity peace with God through the Messiah, and we know we now live at peace with God in Christ.

Through the forgiveness of sins Jesus won for us, we are also given to be at peace with one another. And we wait for the perfection of that peace.

O Jesus, Prince of Peace - in this time of waiting, bring us your peace as we share your life, your love, and your mercy through faith. Let us prepare to greet you with repentant hearts and watchful eyes; anticipating the joy you have promised to all whom you redeem. Amen.

- The Rev. Barry Long, pastor, Mount Calvary Lutheran Church, Peoria

Michael Miller of the Journal Star. Illustration by Scott Adrian

Hinton of the Journal Star.