Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tomorrow is the Thrid Sunday of Advent~

What is the Season of Advent? It is the 4 week period before Christmas when the Church celebrates the first coming of Christ and anticipates his second coming. Advent can fall on any date between (and including) November 27 and December 3. This year (2011) Advent begins on November 27th.

The term "advent" comes from the Latin adventus, meaning "coming" or "appearance." Advent is the season marking the four Sundays before Christmas and developed as a way of helping Christians prepare not only to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in his First Coming but also to help them look forward to his glorious Second Coming. Although Advent customs may be foreign to many Latter-day Saints, we have found that, like so many seasonal traditions, they are a wonderful way to turn our attention more fully to the true meaning of Christmas

Many Advent traditions come from Germany, where Martin Luther encouraged its continued observance as a way of teaching children and families more about the significance of the coming of Jesus Christ. It came to be celebrated by both Roman Catholics and Lutherans there and has become a common celebration in many Christian faith communities throughout the world.

One of the best known Advent customs is the lighting of the candles in an Advent wreath, a simple or decorated evergreen wreath with four candles placed in the circle and a single white candle in the center. The wreath itself represents the never-ending circle of God’s love, that he is the same and forever in his love towards his people. The green of the wreath, as in the Christmas tree, represents the hope of eternal life that comes through Christ and serves a reminder of the freshness of God’s love and promises. The light of the candles reminds us that Jesus is the Light of the World, that his birth represented the coming of the light into darkness, and that we are called to reflect that light in our lives.

The outer candles are purple, the color of royalty, although customarily the third one is rose or pink. Traditions differ regarding the symbolism of the candles. One is that they represent the hope, love, joy, and peace that come through Jesus Christ. Each Sunday before Christmas an additional candle is lit, creating a beautiful stepped-effect as the previous weeks’ candles burn down further. Scriptures can be read and carols sung as part of the lighting, which we do before family prayer. The four candles can also represent the different Old Testament covenants that God made with his servants, beginning with Noah and continuing through Abraham, Moses, and David. The central white candle is known as the Christ candle. It is lit on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and represents the new covenant made possible through Christ.

The scriptures below for each candle come from the Old Testament, the Book of Mormon, and the New Testament. While not all families may wish to observe such Advent customs formally, we hope that the scriptures and thoughts that we have selected for each of the Sundays of Advent will be uplifting and provide meaningful reflection on the season.

This year I have also added for the second, third, and fourth Sundays stirring anticipatory episodes known traditionally as the Annunciation to Mary, the Dream of Joseph, and the Visitation to better set up the Christmas story for Christmas Eve.

Third Sunday of Advent:

Traditionally the third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin for "rejoice!" The third candle represents the joy that we have in the birth of Jesus, but it is pink to remind us of Easter and the blood of Christ even in midst of the joyous celebrations of Christmastide. Nevertheless, the sorrow of Christ’s suffering and death is blotted out as we triumph in his resurrection, and we anticipate the return of Jesus in his Second Coming with joy.

This candle can also represent the covenant that God made with Israel through Moses. On one level it represents the law of Moses, the blood of its offerings prefiguring the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. On another it represents the Deuteronomic covenant that the Lord will bless those who will have him to be their God and who covenant to serve him and be his people.

"Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. And in that day shall ye say, Praise the Lord, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted. Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth" (Isaiah 12:2–5)

"And he said unto me: Awake, and hear the words which I shall tell thee; for behold, I am come to declare unto you the glad tidings of great joy. For the Lord hath heard thy prayers, and hath judged of thy righteousness, and hath sent me to declare unto thee that thou mayest rejoice; and that thou mayest declare unto thy people, that they may also be filled with joy. For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay . . . And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary." (Mosiah 3:3–8)

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." (John 16:20–22)

Suggested Carol: "Joy to the World"

The Angel’s Words to Joseph:

"When as . . . Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.

"But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.’

"Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son . . ." (Matthew 1:18–25)

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