CHARLOTTE, NC, December 19, 2017 – Perhaps no Christmas tradition is better understood than the Advent wreath. Its message is simple yet poignant as it reflects the true spirit of the season.
Even so, there are still some interesting tidbits that give the story further meaning. For example, in this year which celebrates the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s protest that became the catalyst for the Reformation, it seems only proper that the tradition of the Advent wreath began during his era.
The Advent Wreath
There are variations, of course, but, for the most part, the wreath is basically the same everywhere. Shaped in a perfect circle symbolizing the eternity of God, the Advent wreath features three purple candles, one pink candle, and a white candle. Individual adaptations can vary slightly from church to church depending upon preference, but generally, the changes are only minor.
While the candles did provide illumination in many churches, their true purpose during the season of Advent was a symbol of the coming of Christ.
The most common tradition is to place four candles on the evergreen bough, one for each week in Advent. Most churches use purple candles with a large white candle in the center to represent Christ.
Other churches use three purple or blue candles with one that is colored rose or pink to signify joy.
Each Sunday during advent focuses upon a different virtue of Christ: Hope, Love, Joy and Peace.
The first candle is typically known as the “Prophecy Candle” in remembrance of the prophets, primarily Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. It represents hope in anticipation of the coming Messiah.
Next, on the second Sunday of Advent, another candle is lit. Some traditions call this the “Bethlehem Candle,” which represents love and symbolizes Christ’s manger.
The third candle, known as the “Shepherd’s Candle,” signifies joy. It is this candle that is customarily pink or rose-colored.
The call for peace is the representation of the fourth candle which is most often known as the “Angel’s Candle.”
The “Christ Candle” is colored pure white. It is the largest candle and sits in the center of the wreath. The white is symbolic of the purity of Christ who lived a sinless life and as Savior cleansed away the sins of mankind. This candle is said to be “whiter than snow.”
The word “Advent” derives from the Latin term adventus which means “arrival.”
In its own way, especially for those who are concerned that the commercialization of Christmas frequently overshadows the true meaning of the day, the Advent wreath is a marvelous teaching tool that can be used as a reminder of real importance of the celebration of Christ’s birth.
Catholic tradition is a little different than the Protestant observance of Advent where the four candles each stand for a thousand years, to total the 4,000 years from the time of Adam and Eve until the birth of the Savior.
Unlike many of the other Christmas legends and traditions, the history of the Advent wreath seems to be the most consistent in keeping with the spirit of the season. There appears to be less controversy surrounding its origins and purpose, and, all things considered, given its powerful message, that’s precisely as it should be.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor is anaward-winningg television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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