Advent Candles and Advent Wreath

Advent is a special time of the year for Christians, as we prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Advent means "arrival" or "coming" in Latin, and it refers to the four weeks before Christmas that celebrate the first and second comings of Christ. One of the most common and beautiful traditions of Advent is the use of an Advent wreath and candles, which symbolize many aspects of our faith and hope in Christ.

Advent candles and wreath.
Advent candles and wreath: Symbols of many aspects of Christian faith and hope in Jesus. Source.

The History and Meaning of the Advent Wreath

The origin of the Advent wreath is not very clear, but some historians trace it back to Germany, where pre-Christian people would light candles around a wheel or a wreath in the dark winter months to express their longing for the return of the sun and warmth. When they converted to Christianity, they maintained this practice. 

Subsequently, it was adopted by Christians at large, who imbued it with new significance as a symbol of the arrival of the Son of God, the true Light of the world. The Advent wreath is usually made of evergreen branches, twisted into a circle. 

The evergreens represent the everlasting life that Christ offers us, and the circle symbolizes the eternity of God and his unending love for us. The wreath also reminds us of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore on the cross, and the victory that he won over sin and death.

The Colors and Symbolism of the Advent Candles

The Advent wreath holds four candles, one for each week of Advent. They are usually three purple or violet candles and one rose or pink candle, although some traditions use different colors. Each candle has a different meaning and theme, based on the Scripture readings and prayers for each Sunday of Advent. 

The candles are lit progressively, starting with one candle on the first Sunday, then two on the second, and so on, until all four are lit on the fourth Sunday. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, a fifth candle, usually white, is placed in the center of the wreath and lit to celebrate the birth of Christ.

The First Advent Candle

The first candle is called the ‘candle of hope’ or ‘prophecy’. It represents the hope that God's people had for the coming of the Messiah, as foretold by the prophets in the Old Testament. The color purple signifies repentance, preparation, and royalty. We light this candle to remind us that we need to repent of our sins and prepare our hearts for Christ's coming as our King.

The Second Advent Candle

The second candle is called the ‘candle of peace’ or ‘faith’. It represents the peace that Christ brings to those who trust in him. The color purple also signifies faithfulness, as we remember God's promises to his people throughout history. We light this candle to remind us that we need to have faith in God's word and his plan for our salvation.

The Third Advent Candle

The third candle is called the ‘candle of joy’ or ‘love’. It represents the joy and love that we experience when we encounter Christ in our lives. The color rose or pink signifies joy, rejoicing, and celebration. This candle is also called ‘Gaudete Sunday’, which means "rejoice" in Latin, based on the first word of the entrance antiphon for this Sunday: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice." We light this candle to remind us that we need to rejoice in God's love for us and share it with others.

The Fourth Advent Candle

The fourth candle is called the ‘candle of love’ or ‘angel’. It represents the love that God showed us by sending his Son into the world as a human being, born of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. The color purple also signifies humility, as we remember how Christ emptied himself and became obedient unto death on a cross. 

This candle is also called ‘Angel Sunday’, as we recall how God sent his angels to announce the good news of Christ's birth to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds. We light this candle to remind us that we need to humble ourselves before God and follow his will for our lives.

The Fifth Advent Candle

The fifth candle is called the ‘Christ candle’ or ‘light’. It represents Christ himself, who is "the light of all people" (John 1:4). The color white signifies purity, holiness, and glory. We light this candle to celebrate that Christ has come into the world as our Savior and Lord, and that he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

How to Use an Advent Wreath at Home

Using an Advent wreath at home is a great way to observe Advent with your family or friends. You can place your wreath on a table or a stand where you can see it every day. You can also bless your wreath with a prayer before you start using it. Each week, you can light one more candle on your wreath, preferably on Sunday, or any day that is convenient for you. 

You can also pray together, read the Scripture passages for that week, sing a hymn or a song, or do any other activity that helps you focus on the meaning of Advent. You can find many resources online or in books that provide prayers, readings, and suggestions for each week of Advent. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, you can light the fifth candle in the center of your wreath and celebrate the birth of Christ with joy and gratitude. You can also keep your wreath until the feast of Epiphany (January 6), which marks the end of the Christmas season and the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus.

Conclusion

The Advent wreath and candles are more than just decorations. They are powerful symbols of our faith and hope in Christ, who came to save us from our sins and who will come again to bring us to his eternal kingdom. By using an Advent wreath at home, we can prepare ourselves for Christ's coming and grow closer to him during this holy season. May God bless you and your family as you celebrate Advent and Christmas!

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