In our Bibles, there is one flimsy, thinner-than-paper piece of paper between the Old Testament and the New Testament. In reality, this single page represents 400 years of silence as God withheld Himself from the world… from the end of Malachi in the Old Testament until the nativity story in the New Testament. The story unfolds in Luke, chapter 1, which tells us that “a great crowd stood outside, praying” as a priest named Zechariah did his duties at the temple. The people had been praying for 400 years… without a response. There had been no whisper from heaven, no revelation from a prophet, no miracles in their midst.
God had been completely, utterly, entirely silent.
If your cell phone died, now long would you keep checking it? A day or two, at most? Yet still, they prayed in hope – for 400 YEARS! – that their Messiah, Savior, Redeemer and Lord would soon come. Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, had also been praying — a bold and unbelievable prayer that God would bring joy and gladness to their barren lives.
Maybe there’s something you have been praying over for a long time (it might even feel like 400 years). If you’re losing hope, the first candle in the Advent celebration reminds you, in the words of Charles Spurgeon, “Hope on, hope ever.”
The second candle is called the Bethlehem Candle or the Candle of Preparation.
It’s a reminder for us to be prepared to welcome God’s presence and power into our lives, because God keeps His promises. God broke the silence by sending an angel to Zechariah. Do you know what that angel said? He picked up the story right where it left off and repeated the very last verse in their Holy Scriptures (the very same Old Testament you hold in your hands today). For us, it’s just a few flimsy pages back, but they had been reading and rereading those dusty words for 400 years.
The angel told Zechariah, “God has heard your prayer.” It seemed God had been silent, but He had only been waiting, preparing and anticipating the perfect moment to answer their persistent prayers.
Be prepared! Your Bethlehem, the exact place and perfect time God chooses to break the silence and answer your prayer, may be the very next page of your story.
The third candle is pink and it represents Joy.
Elizabeth was joyful! When her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her. (Luke 1:58) Mary was joyful! She sang, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” (Luke 1:46-47) “When [the wise men] they saw the star, they were filled with joy!” (Matthew 2:10) The shepherds were joyful when the angels told them, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.” (Luke 2:10)
Because of the good news of Christmas, all people can be joyful! Lonely people who fear life has passed them by. Misunderstood and scandalous people. People from the far corners of the earth who weren’t raised with “proper” religion. Hardworking, common people who sustain a society that scorns them. The news of Jesus’ birth brings great joy to you and to me.
The fourth candle is called the Angel’s Candle and it represents Peace.
A million angels sang to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” It seems impossible, doesn’t it—this elusive peace? Jesus Himself acknowledged that this this earth is full of trials and sorrows. “But take heart,” He said, “I have overcome the world. You will have peace in me.” (John 16:33)
In His name we light the final candle, the Christ Candle, in the center of the wreath.
The circular shape of this wreath reminds us that—because of Him—we shall not perish but have everlasting, eternal, unending life… represented by the ever green, never fading, boughs. The color white represents purity. Christ is our sinless, spotless and pure Savior who washes our sins whiter than snow. This little baby, born on Christmas night, made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of His blood shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:20)
Whatever you have been praying for, you’ll find your answer in Christmas. The answer is Jesus the Christ – come as a child, crucified as a man, resurrected as Savior, and coming again as our Lord. If you hopefully trust in His love, willingly obey His words, humbly bow at His cradle and His cross… then you will live abundantly and peacefully this Christmas – and forevermore.