I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws. I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD; do not let me be put to shame. I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.
THE SYMBOLISM OF THE ADVENT WREATH1
The green of the Advent wreath is a symbol of life and renewal. The first sign of renewal we discover in God’s story is with Abraham. God made a covenant or promise that He would bless Abraham with land, descendants, and the calling to bless the world.
Another sign of life and renewal experienced by God’s promised people was in the Exodus. The people of God had been enslaved in Egypt for hundreds of years. They cried out to God for help, and he heard their cry. God sent Moses to tell Pharaoh to let God’s people go so they could worship him. When Pharaoh refused, God miraculously freed his people and led them out of Egypt to new life.
God continued to lead his people toward renewal and life by providing them with a way of life. God gave the Ten Commandments to Israel so they could be blessed and be a blessing to the world. God also gave Israel the land promised to their forefather Abraham. But Israel started a dangerous pattern of living and would not follow God’s way of life. So they would experience destruction and cry out to God to rescue them.
God was faithful to his promise and lovingly rescued Israel over and over again. God’s patience and love taught Israel to put hope in God.
We are called to embrace that same lesson Israel learned so long ago. As we wait for the coming of the Light of the World, we’re invited to embrace the God of love as our hope.
Light the Advent Candles Gospel Reading: Matt. 23:1-12
WHAT DO WE LOVE?
In this time of year there’s a lot of emphasis on things to do. We decorate. We sing songs. We eat special foods. We give gifts.
In the gospel reading for today, Jesus warns against doing things with wrong motives, though. He is talking about religious practices, but many of those practices find their place in our Christmas traditions. Jesus is calling out the religious leaders as hypocrites because their hearts are not in the right place as they carry out those practices. Jesus is livid with the teachers of the law and religion because they know what God wants them to do, and why He wants them to do it, but they carry out the practices in ways that they receive honor, not God.
As we go through this week and the next two weeks until Christmas, and as we practice loving others, remember what Jesus has to say about motives. We should not be doing kind things for others so that we get the credit, but so that the receiver may be blessed. We should not give with a big show — after all, the God of the universe gave us His son as a poor baby who was born in a feeding trough. Grand gestures don’t always come with grand motives. Don’t be afraid to give big if your heart is right, but don’t over-give to compensate for a lack of love in your heart.
We are to love others simply because Christ first loved us. Remember this as you love others this season.
Prepare my heart, Lord Jesus, don’t leave my side, and grant that I receive you this blessed Adventide.5
1) Adapted from Paul Sheneman, Illuminate: an Advent Experience. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill of Kansas City, 2011. Print.
5) Adapted from Valentin Thilo, “Ye Sons of Men, Oh, Hearken” (1642), trans. Arthur T. Russell (1851), Cyber Hymnal, http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/y/s/ysmheark.htm.