Throughout history, the Church has kept Advent as a season of great solemnity -- a time in which to meditate upon the ultimate issues of death, judgment, and hell and heaven. Advent, however, was also a time of great rejoicing, for Christ would come, not only as Judge, but also as Savior. Advent, therefore, provided a vivid preparation for Christmas.
Advent has long been symbolized by the lighting of the candles of an Advent wreath, representing the four weeks of the Advent season and culminating in the lighting of the fifth candle at Christmas. The lighting of a candle reminds us that though we live in a dark world, at the heart of the Christian Gospel is a message of hope. The light of a candle, though it may be flickering and fragile, represents that Light of the World which illuminates our world and our lives. That Light of the World has a name -- his name is Jesus. 'The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never overcome it.'
The good news to us as Christians is that though our world is dark, a light shines; God loves us and he will never leave us. That is the message of Advent.
The Advent Lessons and Carols service this year at St. Francis of Assisi was structured around the great "O" Antiphons of Advent (O Come, O Come Emmanuel). These were sung originally as Antiphons to the Magnificat at the Evening Office from December 17th to 23rd, and provided a rich source of devotional imagery in Advent. The readings and music chosen for the service complemented the Antiphons, helping us reflect on the theme of the Christ who comes to judge and save his people. The scripture readings came in pairs -- parallels from the Old and New Testaments, prophesy and fulfillment and helped prepare our hearts for Christmas.
With a song in my heart,
Cathy Griffing, Organist/Choirmaster
St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church
Gulf Breeze, FL, 32561