What is Advent?
Most of us know that Advent represents the time before Christmas, and to many children it is a count down of how many sleeps until Santa arrives and presents appear under the Christmas tree. Did you realise though that Advent is actually the beginning of the Christian year, a time of waiting and preparation or the coming (Adventus) of Christ.
The Advent wreath dates back to ancient celebrations of the winter solstice - that time in the year when the sun reaches its southern-most point in the heavens and the days are the darkest and most gloomy. Because they longed for the return of the suns light and life, the ancients stopped all usual activity, sacrificed the use of their wagon wheels and hung them up, festooned with lights and greens in their celebration halls. There they awaited the return of their sun-god, thinking of the warmth and life he brought. Celebrations culminated in the "nativity" of the sun - the turning point of the year.
As Christians, we use the same meaningful custom to anticipate the feast of light and life: the nativity of the Savior. We add one light on the wreath for each Sunday in Advent, We think of the darkness after Adam's sin and watch the growing hope and light as the prophets and Virgin help us prepare for His saving birth.
Let us pray.
O Lord Jesus Christ, who art the true light that lightest every man that cometh into the world: Bless we pray thee, our wreath and its candles which we shall light in preparation for thy coming, and so enkindle our hearts with the fire of thy love that we may receive thee with joy and gladness, and evermore stand fast in the faith. For thou livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Each Sunday in Advent marked by lighting of a new candle on the Advent wreath of five candles. The three purple candles are coloured for the season. A pink candle is traditionally lit on the third Sunday in Advent, Gaudete Sunday, reminding us of the joy of the coming of Christ. The white candle, symbolises the presence of Christ and is joyfully lit on Christmas Day.
Symbols of Advent
- The colour of our Advent altar - purple, the colour of royalty welcoming the coming of Christ the King. Purple is also the colour of suffering used during Lent and Holy Week suggesting connection between Jesus' birth and death. The nativity and the Incarnation, are linked with His crucifixion. Jesus came into the world as the "Word made flesh" and lived among us to reveal God and His grace. He did this through his life and teaching, but also through his suffering, death, and resurrection.
- The Circle Of Wreath - represents the eternity and endless mercy, of God, without beginning, nor end.
- The Green of the Wreath - Our hope of newness, renewal and eternal life.
- Light of the Candles - The Light of God that came into the world through Christ to bring newness, life and hope
- Lighting the Candles - The progressive departure of darkness from the world as the more and more light is shed through the candles.
- Four Outer Candles - The four weeks of Advent, representing the four centuries between the time of the Prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ.
- Three Purple Candles - A period of waiting, expectation and preparation.
- Advent Sunday - The First Candle: The Candle of Promise. A time of expectation and hope.
- Advent II - The Second Candle: The candle of Light. The peace that is to come.
- Advent III - The Pink Candle. The candle of Love. It symbolizes joy for the promise is almost fulfilled.
- Advent IV - The Fourth Candle:The candle of Hope. The love of God for humanity.
- Christmas Day - The white center candle: The Candle displaying the light of Christ. It is lit on Christmas Eve or Day to display that the light of Christ has come into the world in fulfillment of the prophecies.