Having candles and evergreen boughs in church during this time of year is pleasant, certainly, but should these things really have a place in our worship service? We would like to share with you why we believe that an observance of the Advent season should be by explaining some of the beautiful symbolism behind this worship tradition.
Why a wreath, what does it symbolize or mean…
The Advent wreath is large and circular in shape. The circle has no beginning or end, reminding us of God’s unending love for us (Deut. 31:6,8; 1Chron 16:17; Psalm 100:5; Isa 43:12-13). The wreath is suspended from the ceiling or stands high enough so that all may see… as He is the light of the world, so, being His, we are a light on a hill… (Matthew 5:14; John 1:9; 3:19; 8:12; 9:5)
It is made of fresh evergreens, which are a sign of life in an otherwise lifeless winter. They point to new life and the hope of eternal life that we find in Christ. They also remind us to pray for the restoration of all of God’s creation.
The five candles contrast darkness and light. They are lit in succession, one more each week as we count the Sundays in Advent, with an increasing illumination almost like the coming dawn… or a new day as we wait for Christ’s birth. In this we are also reminded of those who waited and looked for with great anticipation for thousands of years for the Messiah. And so, as the light increases and with rising anticipation, on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the fifth candle—the Christ candle—is lit. Jesus, the light of the world, and the darkness has not put it out. The full blaze stands for the fulfillment of the promise.
And what of the candles…
The candles are usually purple, the traditional color of royalty and of penitence, used in the seasons of preparation—Advent and Lent (although blue candles are also appropriate in Advent to symbolize hope and expectation). There may be one pink candle, lit on the third Sunday to represent joy and to mark the breaking of the fast that was kept in early times (and if one has chosen to do so) . The Christ candle is always white and is larger and taller than the others. It is placed in the center of the wreath.
Our desire at this time is for the focus of this candle lighting be on the increasing light as each candle is lit – representing the time of Jesus’, the light of the world, dawning – the dawn approaching, our anticipation rising
The value of the wreath…
This candle lighting is to be a part of our worship as a corporate expression of our growing anticipation and gratitude as we all, together, look back at Jesus, while looking forward to the commemoration and upcoming celebration of His birth.
The many pieces…
We will have different people from our church family lighting the candle(s) and leading the readings each service – involving broken pieces from every walk of life and place in their walk with God, in Christ – men and women, married and single, strong and weak, rich and poor—as we all are His and each a representation of God’s children, making this a special time of expectation and delight – as we together see this emphasis on the contrast o the dim darkness and the ascending and growing light. We will then take time, after the candles have been lit, to ponder, to savor, to wonder together about the waiting people and God’s amazing gift.
What will we be reading?
During the services we will have short readings that will provoke and lead us into and through our anticipation and waiting – that when dwelled on will promote our reflection on God’s gift of Jesus and life in and through Him.
At home we would like to encourage all of us to consider the readings we have provided (or something like it) for further or deeper preparation of the heart to see and receive, find or further our hope and joy, in this precious gift of life and love – whether that be for the one who is seeking God and desiring life and salvation, or the one who has known God for a lifetime and is in need of refreshing and refocus.
We might also encourage families to get or make their own wreaths and take the time to light candles together at home, find time together to reflect on the true meaning of this season and this gift that can easily be taken for granted… and to do this daily or weekly with Bible readings and devotions for use at home with their family candle lighting.
Some reading options for you and your family below:
Go to your Youversion app, “plans” and search for “Advent”. There are a number very good reading plans for Advent – choose the one that would be best for you and yours… (and, if you don’t have Youversion bible app, go to your app store and download it, it’s an awesome tool!