As the holiday season approaches, we often hear the language spoken of “preparing the way.” Traditionally, Advent is a time of reflection and affirmation, with each week represented by a theme.
Advent has been seen as an exploration of faith, an inner search of the mind and heart.
What Do the Weekly Advent Themes Represent for Us?
Advent guides us to explore what Christmas means to us personally and to discover that the greatest gift we can give to our family, friends, and the world is ourself!
Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore spoke of Unity and Advent in a January 24, 1923, radio broadcast called “Christ Mind, the Second Coming of Christ.”
He shared his thoughts on his understanding that “Christ is an idea in divine mind” and highlighted the universality of the Christ, the divine essence that dwells in every human being.
In the Advent devotional booklet The Spirit of Christmas, Rev. Kurt Condra and other writers explore why the ancient celebration of the birth of the Christ child is so meaningful. They wonder: Why does the story of Mary and Joseph and the divine child born in a manger continue to resonate with us more than 2,000 years later?
Christmas represents the divine child born in each of us and the divine attributes we can develop as we learn to express our God nature in human form.
The four Sundays of Advent proclaim aspects of our divine nature—hope and faith, peace, love, and joy.
The traditional themes of Advent allow us—through meditation, prayer, and affirmation—to contemplate ways to share our deepest gifts: hope and faith, peace, love, and joy.
Advent Week 1: Hope and Faith
Most Christians focus on hope during the first week of Advent. In Unity, perhaps inspired by the view that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for,” we contemplate both hope and faith as we spiritually prepare our hearts and minds for Christmas …
Think of it as a hope-faith continuum. Hope arises when we glimpse a new possibility. These glimpses can inspire us to make positive changes. They can motivate us to adopt new ways of thinking and behaving …
Increase your hope on this continuum, and enter the realm of belief. We believe because we have an intellectual understanding of how a thing works. We may also believe because it’s what we’ve been taught. The challenge is that it’s possible to have two contradictory beliefs concurrently.
For instance, I believe in an abundant universe. Yet, sometimes, if funds are low, the anxiety I feel betrays a residual belief in lack.
Resolving these contradictions is the domain of faith. It’s in the spiritual dimension that we experience faith as a deep inner knowing arising from divine intelligence …
Blessed are we, for each of us has access to hope, belief, and faith in the Christmas story’s promise of infinite good and love everlasting.
—Excerpt by Rev. Kurt Condra
Advent Week 2: Peace
Most renditions of the Christmas story begin with the angel Gabriel telling Mary she is to bear a son.
But in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus’ birth story parallels John the Baptist’s. Months before visiting Mary, Gabriel appeared to Zechariah to announce that Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth, would bear a son to be named John.
Because he is so old, Zechariah questions whether paternity is possible, like Mary’s initial response to her improbable pregnancy. But while Mary’s question is answered, Zechariah is chastised for doubting, then struck mute for the duration of his wife’s pregnancy.
The situation and the question are the same, but Mary gets encouragement while Zechariah gets silenced. Why? …
“All manifestations of life originate in the Silence,” the Society of Silent Unity wrote in Unity, Vol. 17 (Unity Tract Society, 1902). “The thoughts that rise in you and come to the surface in deed and act, are they not from the Silence?” …
Muting the perpetual cycle of thought is a gift that brings greater peace. For Zechariah, muteness was imposed. We are called to mute our own thoughts … With quiet minds and open hearts, we find rest in the peace that surpasses all understanding.
It’s why I’ve come to believe Zechariah’s muteness was not a punishment but a gift. It’s a gift we are all invited to give as well as receive.
—Excerpt by Rev. Kurt Condra
Advent Week 3: Love
Asked to tell the Christmas story in their own words, a group of fifth graders at my church pretty much shared the basic version we all know from hymns and pageants: Joseph and Mary, a donkey, angels, star, stable, kings, shepherds, and, of course, baby Jesus.
As they talked about each character, one student noted that under normal conditions kings and shepherds would never hang out.
What that means for us, they said, is that from his birth, Jesus taught that we should love everyone: black, brown, or white; rich or poor; cool or nerdy; gay, straight, or questioning; Democrat or Republican.
At our core, they said, “We are one in God’s love.” It’s a view of unconditional love that defines Christ consciousness quite succinctly …
There is an incredible sense of power and freedom in both giving and receiving love without condition or expectation. The experience can be so profound that we lose track of whether we’re the giver or receiver …
“Love is who we are, and no season can contain it,” Sara Bareilles affirms in her evocative song “Love Is Christmas.” It’s true about each of us, and everyone else too.
—Excerpt by Rev. Kurt Condra
Advent Week 4: Joy
When we light the Advent candle for joy, we remind ourselves of the spiritual truth of this season: “Unto us a child is born.”
In telling the Christmas story, the Gospel writers remind us that when things seem darkest, joy can come in unexpected places and small packages.
Children remind us of the joy of playing, giving, learning, and loving. In the presence of such joy, our inner child can awaken our Christ nature and then the Messiah is truly born.
Christmas is not an event that happens only in December or 2,000 years ago in Palestine. Christmas happens as we open to the possibility of hope, when we live in the understanding of peace, and when we give love.
The joy that is Christmas—the birth of the Christ, happens all the time, every minute of every day. As the days get shorter and darkness seems to close in, we light the candle for joy to remind ourselves of the power and presence within us. Then we celebrate the season with newfound glee.
Joy to the world, the Savior is here and has been here all along.
—Excerpt by Rev. Ken Daigle