Since I was little, I have always had a special place in my heart for Advent. Sure – there was the bit about being the season just before Christmas. But even as a kid, outside of knowing that Christmas would be coming soon, Advent brought with it its own kind of joy. Maybe it was lighting the Advent Wreath or counting down the days or even the purples and evergreen decorations. Or perhaps it was all of it swirling together to create the most beautiful sense of anticipation.
For many of us, the Advent Wreath is the hallmark tradition and symbol of the season. While evergreen wreaths were adopted by Christianity in the middle ages, the modern Advent Wreath as we know it began in Germany in the 1830s as a way to help children count the days until Christmas. Now, the four candles represent much more than a countdown. Each candle holds a different value for the Sundays leading to Christmas: Hope, Faith, Joy, and Peace.
To be honest, despite my love of Advent I have never focused much on the meaning behind the candles, with the exception of Gaudete Sunday – our pink candle. But yet again, our long-standing traditions are steeped in beautiful meaning allowing us the chance to deepen our faith. So this year, I am making a point to do just that and I invite you to do the same. As you light the candles each week, I hope you can use these thoughts and allow them to light something within you as we await the coming of Christ.
The First Sunday: The Prophet’s Candle – Hope
Make some wishes for the coming of Christmas and the new year. Pray over the things you are hoping for. Write them in a prayer journal or notebook. Share the hopes you have for others with them and encourage them to hope.
The Second Sunday: The Bethlehem Candle – Faith
Give thanks for faith. Spend time in prayer or meditation with God. Share a problem with Him. Those things you have the hardest time letting go of put them in God’s hands and have faith. It took great faith for Mary & Joseph to reach Bethlehem. And that faith was rewarded.
The Third Sunday: The Shepherd’s Candle – Joy
Make action your prayer this week. Find the things that spark joy in your soul and soak them up. Take extra time with your family. Spend a little longer curled up with your pets. Take a walk to see the Christmas lights around you twinkling in the night.
The Fourth Sunday: The Angel’s Candle – Peace
Even so close to Christmas, find time for peace. Relish in quiet time. Unplug from electronics and be present with the world around you. Let go of negativity and sow peace in the relationships in your life. Take a moment to be still – The Messiah is here. God is with us.
– Erin Perkins