Advent offers opportunity for growth

Published 10:25 pm Friday, December 6, 2019

By Chris Quilpa

Pope Francis once wrote, “Let us open our hearts to receive the grace of this Advent season, which is Christ himself, whom God our Father has revealed to the entire world. Where God is born, hope is born. Where God is born, peace is born. And where peace is born, there is no longer room for hatred and for war.”

A yearly Christian church tradition observed by many Christian churches for centuries, Advent started on the first Sunday of December.

Email newsletter signup

It is the period of four Sundays and weeks before Christmas and also observed by some Christians as a season of prayer and fasting.

From the Latin word “adventus” meaning “coming” or “arrival,” Advent is the first season of the Christian church year that includes the four preceding Sundays leading up to Christmas.

The dictionary defines advent as the arrival of a notable person, thing or event, while In Christian Theology, Advent is the coming or second coming of Christ.

One of the highlights of the season is the Advent wreath made out of evergreen (either fresh or plastic), distinctly displayed at the altar of every church and even in designated areas of Christian homes. This wreath is shaped in a perfect circle to symbolize the eternity of God.

In the wreath are four candles representing the four weeks or Sundays of the season that eventually culminates on Christmas Eve.

At the center of the Advent wreath is a large white candle that symbolizes Christ. Together with the four outer candles, this Christ candle is lighted on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to remind Christians that Jesus is the light of the world.

Each of the four candles, lit every Sunday during Advent season, symbolizes the four virtues that Jesus Christ brings us: Hope, Love, Joy and Peace.

To other Christian churches, the lighting of the first candle symbolizes expectation, while the second hope, the third joy, and the fourth purity.

On the first Sunday of Advent, Christian churches and those families at home having Advent wreaths light the first candle on the Advent wreath to mark the first Sunday of Advent.

For the second Sunday of Advent, another candle is lighted. Same for the third and fourth until all four candles are lit on the fourth Sunday.

Another sign that Advent is here is the singing of the popular church hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!” usually sung as the entrance song at the beginning of church worship service.

As a sacred season of hope and longing, waiting in anticipation for His coming, Advent offers an opportunity for spiritual preparation, growth and development for all believers as they continue their journey towards a life of faith and hope, love and peace, and everlasting joy.

Amidst all the hustle and bustle of the world and the routine or hectic schedule of everyday living, what can you do to prepare yourself during this Advent season?

One simple activity is praying. A short, simple prayer can be a powerful weapon in difficult, trying times. Praying for others can do wonders. Another is going to church on Sundays to be in communion with faith community, praying, worshiping and giving thanks to Almighty God. There is strength in numbers when many pray together for universal peace and unity.

One Christian writer opined that Advent is a time for re-commitment to good, healthy habits — prayer, acts of charity and justice, and a greater awareness of God’s presence in our daily lives.

“God alone can save us and free us from the many forms of evil and selfishness in our midst. Let us welcome into our lives God’s mercy, which Jesus Christ has bestowed on us, so that we, in turn, can show mercy to our brothers and sisters. In this way, we will make peace grow,” said Pope Francis.

May your Advent season be filled with hope and healing, justice and peace, love and joy!

Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at