The Advent Wreath
This Sunday marks the first Sunday of Advent. This Advent will be an all-out sprint to Christmas. Since Christmas falls on a Monday, we have three weeks of Advent, instead of the normal four weeks.
Many families have an Advent wreath on the table and it may be helpful to reflect on the meaning and purpose of the Advent wreath.
First, the word “Advent” comes from the Latin word “Adventus” which means “a coming, approach, or arrival.” During this time, we prepare our homes, churches, and hearts for the coming of Jesus Christ, both at Christmas and at His Second Coming.
The Advent wreath dates back to pre-Christian Germany when people would anticipate warmer months by lighting candles. By the 1600s, Christians transformed the tradition and they standardized the practices surrounding the Advent wreath.
The wreath is normally circular which signifies God’s continuous and infinite love for us. God is everlasting and unchanging and so the circle is continuous, never beginning and never ending, much like God. Advent wreaths are normally made with evergreen branches, which keep their color year-round. The branches are continuously green, like the love, mercy, and presence of God.
There are four candles in the Advent wreath: three of them are purple and one is pink. The four candles correspond to the four weeks of Advent. The candle is lit to correspond with the particular Sunday in Advent. Normally, on Christmas day, a fifth white candle is placed in the center of the wreath. Here are the meaning on the five candles:
First Candle (Purple), Hope: In a world that often seems dark and dreary, we begin with the candle of hope. The Gospel for the first Sunday of Advent is always about the second coming of Jesus Christ. This event stirs hope in our hearts. We look forward to Christ’s presence in our world and our hearts. He is our hope.
Second Candle (Purple), Peace: The prophet Isaiah stated that the coming Messiah would be called, “the prince of peace” (Isaiah 9:6). We long for a peaceful life and a peaceful world. This can only come through Jesus Christ. On this Sunday we anticipate Christ’s birth which is announced by the Angels proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).
Third Candle (Rose/Pink), Joy: The entrance antiphon for this Sunday is, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near” (Philippians 4:4-5). The color pink is used for this Sunday to signify that Christ is near. Just as pink in the sky signifies that the sun is about ready to appear, liturgical pink signifies that the Son of God is about to appear. Our reaction to Christ’s appearance is one of great rejoicing.
Fourth Candle (Purple), Love: One of the most famous verses in the Bible is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” The great sign of the Father’s love is the gift of His Son. God’s love is overwhelming and He gives us the best that He has, His own Son.
Fifth Candle (White in middle), Light: Jesus Christ the light of the world has dawned on Christmas. Let us rejoice that the light of the world has penetrated our darkness.
Finally, here is a blessing for an Advent wreath that anyone can utilize:
Lord our God, we praise you for your Son, Jesus Christ: he is Emmanuel, the hope of the peoples, he is the wisdom that teaches and guides us, he is the Savior of every nation.
Lord God, let your blessing come upon us as we light the candles of this wreath.
May the wreath and its light be a sign of Christ’s promise to bring us salvation.
May he come quickly and not delay. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Fr. Sean Wilson