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Food for Thought - Musings

Advent and the Use of the Advent Wreath

Advent and the Use of the Advent Wreath

This musing has been sent out early so you will have the opportunity to use the following material to help you enter into the real meaning of Christmas this year. Below you will find an ancient practice (from around the 1600’s) which has helped individuals and families prepare to enter into the Christmas season in a Christ-focused, God-honoring way.

As we turn the corner on Thanksgiving and begin down the home stretch toward Christmas it is easy to get caught up in the Xmas hype and awake on Christmas Day worn out, tired, and feeling like you missed out on another opportunity to enter into the true spirit of Christmas. Well, here is your chance to make this Christmas Season a little different for you and your family and/or friends.

It is a very simple practice that is called Advent and it was originally created to help people prepare for the celebration of the arrival of the Christ child on Christmas Day. It involves lighting a candle on each of the four Sundays prior to Christmas and then lighting one additional candle on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day for a total of five candles. This year Advent begins on November 29.

The Sundays of Advent for 2009:

November 29 - First Sunday of Advent

December 6 - Second Sunday of Advent

December 13 - Third Sunday of Advent

December 20 - Fourth Sunday of Advent

The word Advent means "coming" or "arrival." The focus of the Advent season is on the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, as well as the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent.

Advent Wreath

The Advent wreath
is a circular evergreen wreath (real or artificial) with five candles, four around the wreath and one in the center. The circle of the wreath represents the eternity of God (without beginning or end). The green of the wreath speaks of growth, newness, renewal and eternal life. And the candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through the birth of His son. Here are a couple websites where you can find directions to make your own wreath: (www.christiancrafters.com/adventwreath.htm, www.domestic-church.com/CONTENT.DCC/19971201/FRIDGE/MKADVWR.HTM )

Advent Candles

Lighting Candles

The use of candles (light) is an apt reminder of John 1:1-11. “
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him."

And John 8:12 where Jesus states;
"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

Number of Candles

Traditionally there were four candles, one for each of the Sundays of Advent. Some also see the four candles as a reminder of the four hundred years of silence and waiting between the prophet Malachi (the end of the Old Testament) and the birth of Christ.

Recently a fifth candle has been added, referred to as the Christ Candle. This candle is placed in the center of the other four candles and is lit on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Color of Candles

The color of the candles is as follows: three candles are purple – these candles are lit the first, second and fourth weeks. The color purple is the color which symbolizes repentance and fasting as well as the color of royalty. The color purple is also the color associated with the Lenten season, which is a time of preparation for Good Friday and Easter Sunday (the death and resurrection of Christ). The color purple links the birth of Christ with his death and resurrection. This is a powerful reminder that even as Jesus is laid in a manger, a cross is being readied to be raised on Calvary.

The remaining traditional candle is pink and is lit on the third Sunday. The use of the a different color for the third week’s candle is thought to indicate a change, a lessening emphasis on penitence as attention is turned more to celebration of the season. A word that often becomes the focus for the third week of Advent is joy or rejoice.

For those who opt to use the fifth candle (the Christ Candle), this candle is white and speaks of the purity and holiness of the Christ child. He came as one of us, tempted in all ways but without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

The Practice of Advent

Each week a candle is lit, a passage is read, and a prayer is prayed. Or instead of a passage, some words can be said around a theme (love, joy peace…). I have offered some suggestions below. The practice of Advent is often done after dinner.

Regarding the actual lighting of the candles: the first week light one candle, the second week two (the first week’s candle as well as a new one for the second week), the third week three, the forth week four, and on Christmas Eve/Day all the candles are lit. Each time the final candle of the evening is lit, proclaim: “Jesus is the light of the World.” A Christmas carol that fits can also be incorporated at this time.

Possible Closing Prayer (after the candles are lit and the passages read or reflections shared)

As this candle brings forth light into our home may Christ be the light to our path, guiding us into the way, truth and life everlasting. May Christ our Savior bring the light of life into the darkness of our world and may we, like Christ, bring light into the relationships and circumstances of our own lives and the lives of those we journey with. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen

Suggestions for passages for each of the candle lightings:

The first candle, lit on the first Sunday of Advent, is traditionally the candle of Expectation or Hope. This draws attention to the anticipation of the coming of a Messiah.
We can have hope because God is faithful and will keep the promises made to us.

Possible Passages: (there is no need to use all or any of these)

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 1:20

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
” (Romans 15:12-13)

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:5

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” 1 Peter 1:3

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:13

These two passages can be used instead of the above passages:

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2

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. Isaiah 9:6

The remaining three candles of Advent may be associated with different aspects of the Advent story.

Possible Passages: (there is no need to use all or any of these)

Second Sunday: Mary (Luke 1:26-38) Sometimes Mary is forgotten in Protestant circles. Take time to reflect on Mary’s extraordinary faith as she proclaims; “
I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said."

Third Sunday: Angels/Shepherds (Luke 2:8-15) Although this passage is somewhat out of sequence it fits in well with the traditional focus of joy/rejoicing associated with the third week.

Fourth Sunday: Shepherds (Luke 2:16-20)

The fifth candle (the Christ Candle) is traditionally lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The location of the Christ Candle reminds us that the incarnation is the heart of the season, giving light to the world.

Read Luke 2:1- 20/Isaiah 9:6 (The Charlie Brown Christmas CD can also be used, letting Linus read the passage to you).


Additionally, two other devotional aids for the Christmas season can be found on our website (www.b-ing.org) in the “food for thought” section under “manna.”

The first is labeled “Advent Week 1, Advent Week 2…” and offers five days of guided reflection for each week, reflections centered on the titles of Jesus found in Isaiah 9:6; “
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.”

The second is entitled, “The 12 Days of Christmas” and provides 12 mediations drawn from the gospel accounts leading up to and including the birth of Jesus. The material from either of the aforementioned devotional aids could be used in conjunction with the lighting of the weekly Advent candle.

By the way, the Advent Season marks the beginning of the Church year. For more information on Church Calendar see last month’s musing.

Happy New Year!

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