When I wrote my post about Christ the King Sunday, which marked the end of the liturgical church year, I said that I would try to write about all the church holy days and festivals during this new church year. Although I’ve posted a few things related to Advent so far this month, I haven’t written a post yet that explains what Advent is all about and the traditions of Advent. So that is what I want to do today.
Advent is the season that precedes Christmas. It is the beginning of the church year and begins with the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Because Christmas day falls on a Sunday this year, Advent began on November 27.
The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival,” and the focus of the season is on preparing for the First Coming of Christ (which occurred at His birth) and on the future Second Coming of Christ. It is a time of anticipation and great joy.
One wonderful tradition of Advent is the lighting of candles throughout the season. There are five candles in all, one for each Sunday in Advent arranged in a circle or wreath shape to symbolize the eternity of God, and the Christ candle in the center. There are three purple and one pink candle for the Sundays in Advent, and the Christ candle is white.
On the first Sunday, a single purple candle is lit. This is the candle of expectation or hope. It is the first reminder that Jesus is the light of the world, which increases with a new candle each week and the light become brighter.
On the second Sunday, the first purple candle is relit and a second purple candle is lit as well. This is the candle of love. It is a reminder that God loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for us.
On the third Sunday, the first two purple candles are relit and the pink candle is also lit. This is the candle of joy. As the birth of Christ draws closer it is a reminder of the great joy that is to come into the world through Him.
On the fourth Sunday, the first three candles are relit and the fourth purple candle is lit. This is the candle of peace. It is a reminder of the peace that Jesus brings to the hearts of those who trust in Him.
The center candle, the Christ candle, is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, to signify that the wait is over and the King of kings has arrived.
When my son was younger, we used to make an Advent wreath at home and do daily Bible and devotional readings as a family after dinner. Each year I would find a different Advent reading schedule and get an Advent calendar from our local Christian bookstore. We would take turns reading the devotion, the scripture passage, and saying a prayer.
Now that my son is a teenager and our lives are a little crazier, we have let this tradition slide. I do miss it, though, because the daily reading and lighting of the candles was a wonderful way to keep our focus on Christ as the reason we celebrate Advent and Christmas.
These are the basics of the Advent season. If you want to read a more in depth discussion, check out this website: The Voice.
During this Advent season, I pray you experience the hope, love, joy, and peace of Christ our Savior, born in a manger, who now sits on His throne and reigns in the hearts of those who trust in Him.