Tis the season; reflecting on 2016 during Advent

Christmas is nearly upon us and another year is over. Is there anything you’d do differently or would love to do again? What a perfect time to reflect on this busy year during Advent.

When I was part of the youth group in my church, four people would be chosen to come up to the front of church on one of the four Sundays of Advent to light one of the advent candles. Sadly I was never one of those who were asked (but I put that down to the fact that there were around 50 kids in our youth group). There would always be something really special about those candles but at that age I didn’t understand truly what they were for, I just thought they were to count down the Sundays before Christmas.

But Advent is much more than just counting the days until we wake up at a stupidly early time and run down in our pyjamas to find that Father Christmas has come! Christmas has now become one of the most commercial events of the year, with the true meaning slightly lost in the midst of shopping and worrying about the turkey, so it’s important to remember what Advent is and how to use it.

As we draw half way into Advent, this is the perfect time to reflect on the year just passed. Advent marks the beginning of the new Christian year with the birth of Jesus, and it is a time to reflect, anticipate and prepare. What’s been great in this last year? What disappointments have you had or times that you’ve messed up?

Going back to the roots of the tradition of Advent, it was to commemorate and celebrate the nativity story but as Christians we are also looking to the future when our Saviour comes again.

Through the Advent candles we can look back on our year, prepare for a better year and worship God for what he has already done and what will come.

There are several traditions about the meaning of each candle, but in my church we’ve celebrate each candle in this way.

The first candle, called the candle of the Patriarchs, is a period to remember the anticipation of the birth of Jesus. When we light this candle we can remember that God came on earth for us through the birth of Jesus Christ. That’s the true Christmas story.

The second, candle of the Prophets, is for the preparations that were being made for the birth of Jesus. In this time we can prepare ourselves for this coming year and how we can make it the best yet! In my church this is the sunday that we have our nativity play which is a great way to celebrate and reflect for that week.

The third Sunday we light the candle of John the Baptist who proclaimed the Saviour. As we joyfully share the good news in our lives we can focus on our own journeys with Jesus and reflect on our relationship with him through 2016.

Lastly, the weekend before Christmas, we light the candle of the Virgin Mary who bore him in her womb. We remember the hope fulfilled in the first coming and our continuing hope as we anticipate his second coming.

This time of advent is to reflect on our journey through faith and realise that although 2016 may have been a messy year, we can celebrate that God is higher than all of the mess and we can have hope for the coming year.

With all the twinkling lights and festivities around, keep in your hearts the true meaning of Christmas through this Advent period.