What is “Advent” all about?

December 9, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

In church this morning, we lit candles on an Advent wreath. I thought it might be helpful to talk a little bit about this tradition in these ramblings. So, here you go. May you experience Jesus in a whole new way this Christmas!…

What is Advent, anyway? 

If you were expecting a visit from a very important person, what would you do? Your answers may vary, but I imagine that you would prepare in one way or another.

In our house, when we are expecting guests, we clean things up. The vacuum comes out, things are picked up, and sometimes we even light a candle that smells good (apparently to cover up the normal Haupt scent). When it’s a big occasion, we even break out our china (those dishes I had to help pick out before I got married). In other words, if I see our china gravy boat, I know that I need to put on nice pants.

When we anticipate the arrival of someone special, we prepare in some way or another.

That’s a lot like what Advent is like… The season of Advent is all about looking forward to celebrating the day when our Almighty God stepped into history as a human being. Advent means “to come” and, traditionally, Christians use the Advent season to prepare their hearts to celebrate the arrival of Jesus.

The Advent Wreath

The symbolism of the Advent wreath is beautiful.

Typically, the wreath is made of various evergreens– signifying continuous life. The holly in the wreath also has special Christian symbolism: the prickly leaves of the holly remind us of the the crown of thorns Jesus wore when he went to the cross. The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, the everlasting life found in Jesus Christ, and the eternal Word of the Father, who entered our world becoming true man who was victorious over sin and death through his own passion, death, and resurrection.

The Advent Candles

The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. Three candles are purple and on is rose or pink.  The progressive lighting of the candles (one each week) symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world (the birth of Jesus) and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead.

The first candle (first week, purple candle)– Prophecy or Hope candle…

This candle invites us to thank God for the hope we have in Jesus– the promised Messiah. Some scripture that corresponds with the Hope candle is Isaiah 9:2;6:

 The people walking in the darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

On the first Sunday of Advent, the first candle is lit and and a prayer is said:

“O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth Thy blessing upon us as we prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from Thee abundant graces. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen. 

The second candle (second week; purple candle)– Bethlehem or Peace candle…

In Bethlehem, the Prince of Peace was born so that we sinners could be at peace with our Holy God. Just as King David– born in Bethlehem– brought peace to Israel as a great king, King Jesus– also born in Bethlehem– brought peace to mankind. a scripture that can be rea during the lighting of the Peace candle is Romans 5:1-2:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

A prayer for the lighting of the second candle…

O Lord, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for Thy only begotten Son, that through his coming we may be made worthy to serve Thee with pure minds. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.

The third candle (third week, pink candle)– Shepherd’s or Joy candle…

The Joy candle celebrates to good tidings of great joy that is for all people– Christ is born! The story of the shepherds found in Luke 2:8-20 is often read… highlighted by the words:

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord… Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

A prayer for the lighting of the Joy candle is:

O Lord, we beg Thee, incline Thy ear to our prayers and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.

The forth candle (forth week, last purple candle)– Angel or Love candle

This candle represents God’s incredible love for Man with the gift of his son. Scripture for this candle is John 3:16 and 1John 4:9-10:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

A prayer during the Love candle is:

O Lord, stir up Thy power, we pray Thee, and come; and with great might help us, that with the help of Thy grace, Thy merciful forgiveness may hasten what our sins impede. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.

Finally, the last candle– a larger white candle in the center of the wreath– is lit on Christmas Eve. This candle represents the birth of Jesus… The light entering the world!

Some scripture to consider (and I’ll make you look these up yourself) is John 1:4, John 8:12, John 12:46, Ephesians 5:8-9.

May the traditions of the Advent season focus your heart and mind on Jesus Christ– the one wo livest and reignest forver

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