The Meaning of Advent Wreaths
We hope that you were able to take one of the Advent Wreath kits home with you to share in lighting of the Advent Candles each week with your family, or you have witnessed the lighting of the candles in our Sunday morning services. Some of you may be familiar with this tradition. For some it is a new experience for you. Actually, the Advent Wreath is an ancient tradition, going back centuries; however, its origin is uncertain.
Sometime before the Middle Ages, Christians began using the Advent wreath as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas. The illuminated candles were a reminder of the hope of Christmas, that Christ is “the Light that came into the world” to dispel the darkness of sin and radiate the truth and love of God." On the first Sunday in Advent, one candle is lit, and then for each subsequent Sunday an additional candle is lit, which increasingly brightens the surroundings. This is symbolic of the light of the world becoming nearer as we approach Christmas.
The design of the Advent Wreath consists of four candles placed in a wreath that surrounds a larger middle candle. The Advent Wreath itself, is very symbolic. The evergreens used for the wreath are a reminder of continuous life. The continuity of life is reinforced by it being in the shape of circle. The circle is also a sign of everlasting life as well as the eternity of God.
The four candles used, three purple and one pink, mark the Sundays of Advent before Christmas. The pink candle is used on Gaudete Sunday, typically the third Sunday of Advent. Guadete is Latin for Rejoice. It is a day of rejoicing for Christ is near. Each of the four candles has a significant symbolism assigned to them, however they may be used in a different order from church to church. The four candles are the Peace or the Angel’s candle, Joy or the Shepherd’s candle, Hope or the Prophets candle, and Love or the Bethlehem candle. Finally, in the middle of the wreath is the largest candle, a white candle, the Christ candle, which is lit on Christmas Eve.
Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent and the Peace candle was lit, inspiring us to slow down this season to experience the stillness of God. This Sunday is the second Sunday of Advent. We will experience the lighting of the Joy candle. It reminds us of the joy that all people, even the lowly shepherds, experienced at the birth of Jesus, as well as our own joy as we celebrate Christ’s birth.
The Advent Wreath serves as a powerful visual reminder of the holiness of the season. The lighting of the candles invites us to quiet ourselves during this busy time and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. Whether at home or at church, it provides an invitation to wait and pray in hopeful anticipation for the coming of Christ. We are called to welcome the light of Christ into our lives.