Farmville Enterprise December 7, 2016
In homes and churches throughout the world many Christians use the Advent wreath as a way of preparing for Christmas. An evergreen wreath holds four or five candles and its circular form represents the eternity of God. With him there is no beginning or end and his love never stops. The circle additionally signifies that we can live with God forever. The evergreen of the wreath optimistically shows us life in the lifeless winter. Each Sunday in Advent one candle is lit and is associated with the weekly theme along with the overarching anticipation of the Christ Child. Appropriate Bible passages are read to reflect the theme. The general symbolism of the Advent wreath lies in the growing light: every Sunday another candle is lit as we approach the birthday of Jesus, the Light of the world. Many consider the four candles as expressions of hope, peace, joy and love while others identify them as signifying expectation, hope, joy and purity. Historically Advent was considered a season of repentance prior to the joyful celebration of Christmas. Purple has often symbolized repentance and therefore many liturgical churches were adorned with purple during the season. Most Advent candles were colored purple as a result. Since the theme of the third Sunday was joy that candle was usually pink. Later, some Lutheran and other liturgical churches reexamined the idea that repentance was the primary emphasis of Advent. It certainly played an important part but many came to perceive that a better overall theme for the season was hope – the hope of anticipating Jesus’ entrance into our world. Some churches began to use all blue candles to represent that.
Modern Advent wreaths frequently include a fifth candle in the center which is the white “Christ” candle and is often larger than the rest. It is lit on Christmas Eve. The Christ candle, set aglow after all of the others are burning, with the full blaze of the entire wreath represents the fulfillment of God’s promise in his son Jesus Christ. It is also a reminder of those who waited thousands of years for the promised Messiah. Children are extremely visual learners, and the weekly “growing lights” on the Advent wreath can be a good teaching tool to help them get a glimpse of the bright and happy news of the Incarnation, or Jesus coming in the flesh. Through the Advent wreath we see the contrast between dark and light. It helps us to contemplate the great drama of salvation history that surrounds the birth of Jesus who came to redeem us from our sin. “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:12)