The Advent is about celebrating and anticipation of the arrival of Emmanuel, Jesus Christ. It uses a Christmas wreath to set the stage for the Christian holiday. The imagery is used to help retain the focus of Christmas. The Advent wreaths are circular, representing God’s infinite love, and are usually made of evergreen leaves, which “represent the hope of eternal life brought by Jesus Christ.” Within the Advent wreath are candles that generally represent the four weeks of the Advent season as well as “the light of God coming into the world through the birth of Jesus Christ. Each of the candles has its own significance. Individually, the candles specifically symbolize the Christian concepts of hope (week one), peace (week two), joy (week three) and love (week four). Many Advent wreaths also have a white candle in the center to symbolize the arrival of Christ. According to tradition, this center white candle lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
Last Sunday, December 3, was the first week of Advent. On the first Sunday of Advent, the first purple candle is lit. This candle is typically called the “Prophecy Candle” in remembrance of the prophets, primarily Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ:
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Emmanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14, NIV)
This first candle represents hope or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah.
This upcoming Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent, the second purple candle is lit. This candle typically represents love. Some traditions call this the “Bethlehem Candle,” symbolizing Christ’s manger:
“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12, NIV)
Normally, I avoid liturgy and the man-made trappings of the faith. However, this tradition has such beautiful imagery and helps me properly prepare for this blessed season. Will you join me this week in meditating on the significance of what that baby wrapped up laying in the feed trough means to the world? Celebrating with an Advent wreath during the weeks before Christmas is a great way for Christian families to keep Christ at the center of Christmas, and for parents to teach their children the true meaning of Christmas.
Kellner, K. A. H. (1908). Heortology: A History of the Christian Festivals from Their Origin to the Present Day Kegan Paul Trench Trubner & Co Limited. p. 430
https://web.archive.org/web/20111119020903/http://worship.calvin.edu/resources/resource-library/advent-resource-guide/. Retrieved December 1, 2016
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