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Advent & Christmas: What do all the seasonal trimmings and decorations mean this time of year?

Updated: May 30, 2022

Originally shared from a devotional to my home church for the first Sunday of Advent.

Psalm 45

For the director of music. To the tune of “Lilies.” Of the Sons of Korah.

A maskil. A wedding song.

1 My heart is stirred by a noble theme

as I recite my verses for the king;

my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.

2 You are the most excellent of men

and your lips have been anointed with grace,

since God has blessed you forever.

3 Gird your sword on your side, you mighty one;

clothe yourself with splendor and majesty.

4 In your majesty ride forth victoriously

in the cause of truth, humility and justice;

let your right hand achieve awesome deeds.

5 Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king’s enemies;

let the nations fall beneath your feet.

6 Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;

a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.

7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness;

therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions

by anointing you with the oil of joy.

17 I will perpetuate your memory through all generations;

therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever. (ESV)

Christmas is often filled with all kinds of nostalgia. We LOVE nostalgia! Perhaps Christmas reminds us of joyous, more innocent days. Cultural carols evoke these in memories about all of the events and trimmings around winter and snow... totally foreign to anyone in a warm climate, but still ... these are the themes: sleigh rides, chestnuts roasting, decorations, and Christmas shopping. It's about the here and now, based on our personal memories.

Advent is about hope not nostalgia. It's built on ANAMNESIS (remembrance that evokes the future) and the promise of Christ's full rule and reign.

We get the privilege of keeping the Christ story (past event) front and centre in our services (present), but ultimately pointing forward to the second coming. Hence, every year we decorate to help us remember, but we should take closer note of the symbols:

Evergreen symbolizing eternal life in Christ.

A wreath is circular - has no beginning and no end - like our God.

Gold symbolizing the royal worth of Christ

Red symbolizing the sacrifice for which he was born

Candles symbolizing the eternal light of Christ's love, ever increasing in our world, initiated at his birth.

Candle colours:

Purple: The colour of fasting and repentance, part of preparing for his coming. It is also the colour of royalty as befits the coming of the King of Kings whose "throne will last forever."

Pink: The transition from fasting to celebration as Christmas Day approaches, it symbolizes the rise of joy in our hearts.

White: The Christ candle - the colour of purity symbolizes he who would "save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21).

Psalm 45 is a highly prophetic psalm that looks forward to the King of all Kings, Jesus, as affirmed by the writer of Hebrews (1:8-9). In it we see the glorious kingdom of Messiah represented in perfect rule and justice! What great need there is in our day for such hope! Let's remember where that hope is found, and to whom it is pointing - Jesus, our Messiah Saviour, who came to the manger in Bethlehem, and is coming again! So this Advent, let's prepare our hearts prayerfully and let the Spirit increase our joy in the certainty of hope that Christ's resurrection promises!

Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again!

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Photo: Elias Cabrera

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