FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT (C)
The Advent Wreath: The Advent wreath is a circular garland of evergreen branches representing God’s eternity and perfection. The green leaves symbolize the fullness of life that Christ brings. On the wreath, five candles are arranged: three purple candles, one pink and one white candle. During the season of Advent, one candle on the wreath is lit each Sunday. Each candle represents an aspect of the spiritual preparation for the coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ. As a whole, these candles represent the coming of the light of Christ into the world. The tradition states that the four candles, representing the four weeks of Advent, each stand for one thousand years, to total the 4,000 years from the time of Adam and Eve until the birth of the Saviour.
Prophets’ Candle: On the first Sunday of Advent, the first purple candle is lit. This first candle represents hope or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah. This candle is called the "Prophets’ Candle" in remembrance of the prophets, primarily Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Is 7:14).
Bethlehem’s Candle: On the second Sunday of Advent, the second purple candle is lit. This candle represents faith and is called “Bethlehem’s Candle.” Micah had foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, which is also the birthplace of King David: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5: 2).
Shepherds’ Candle: On the third Sunday of Advent the pink candle is lit. This pink candle is customarily called the "Shepherds’ Candle," and it represents joy: “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Lk 2:8–11).
Angels’ Candle: The fourth and last purple candle, called the "Angels’ Candle," represents peace and is lit on the fourth Sunday of Advent: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests" (Lk 2:13–14).
Christ’s Candle: On Christmas Eve, the white candle is lit. This candle is called the "Christ’s Candle" and represents the life of Christ that has come into the world. The colour white represents purity. Christ is the sinless, spotless, pure Saviour. Those who receive Christ as Saviour are washed of their sins and made whiter than snow: "Come now, let us settle the matter," says the Lord. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool" (Is 1:18).
REFLECTION: Missing the signal! In its day, the Titanic was the world's largest ship, weighing 46,328 tons, and it was considered unsinkable. Yet, late during the night of April 14-15, 1912, the unthinkable happened to the unsinkable. Near midnight, the great Titanic struck an iceberg, ripping a three-hundred-foot hole through five of its sixteen watertight compartments. It sank in two and a half hours killing 1,513 people. Before the Titanic sank, warning after warning had been sent to tell the crew that they were speeding into an ice field, but the messages were ignored. In fact, when a nearby ship sent an urgent warning, the Titanic was talking to Cape Race about the time the chauffeurs were to meet arriving passengers at the dock in New York, and what dinner menus were to be ready. Preoccupied with the trivia, the Titanic responded to the warning, "Shut up. I am talking to Cape Race. You are jamming my signals!"
Why did so many die that night? Perhaps the crew disregarded the danger of the weather; there were not enough lifeboats on board; and the radio operator of nearby California was off duty; perhaps those responsible did not heed the warnings; they were preoccupied with other things! Sometimes we believe that our 'ship' is unsinkable, our life is all well planned, and the unthinkable can never happen to us. We need to read the signs of the times, we need to pay attention to the warning signals. But if we are preoccupied with the trivial things of life, we will miss the most important things till it is too late.
The First Sunday of Advent gives us the warning to be watchful, waiting and prepared. Advent is the season when we make spiritual preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas. The word Advent comes from the Latin 'advenio', which literally means “come to.” St. Bernard of Clairvaux says: There are THREE COMINGS OF THE LORD”: 1). In the first coming he was seen on earth, dwelling among men; he himself testifies that they saw him and hated him; Our Lord came in our flesh and in our weakness. 2). In the final coming all flesh will see the salvation of our God, and they will look on him whom they pierced. The Lord will be seen in glory and majesty. 3). The intermediate coming is a hidden one; in it only the elect see the Lord within their own selves, and they are saved. Here the Lord comes in spirit and in power.
All the Readings in the Liturgy today speak about the coming of Jesus. The 1st Reading speaks about the coming of the Messiah as prophesied by the prophets of old. Jeremiah announces that the Messiah will be a descendant of David and he will act with justice and fairness. In the 2nd Reading, St. Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to abound in neighbourly charity so that they may present themselves holy at the coming of Jesus with all his saints. The Gospel speaks about the second coming of Jesus with his majesty and glory. Jesus says that his future coming will be preceded by roaring of the sea and the waves. Since his coming is sudden, he calls us to be vigilant. Let us pray that we may take these warnings about the coming of Our Saviour seriously and prepare ourselves worthily for his coming.