That is what the word advent means... the beginning, commencement, onset. It is a season of waiting. For Christians, we celebrate not only the ancient coming of the Messiah to be born in Bethlehem, but we also anticipate and prepare for His ultimate return at the Second Coming. The advent season begins with the fourth Sunday before Christmas, which coincidentally just happens to be the Sunday closest to my birthday (November 30th). Thus, it is always easy for me to remember.
Advent is a season of expectation and anticipation. It should be a time of preparation and hope for the Messiah who will bring peace and righteousness into the world. The advent ring (wreath) is designed to reflect the Christmas story and the promise it holds to all people.
The wreath is a circle which reminds us of God Himself. He is eternal, without beginning or end. The life and salvation He offers is also eternal which is symbolized in the evergreens woven into the wreath. As the winter comes and the leaves die on the other trees, the life remains visible in the evergreens throughout the long, cold months. Candles symbolize light. Jesus brings light into a world of darkness and sin. And when we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are called to become the light of the world. As more people become Christians, the light shines brighter and brighter and spreads.
The four candles in the circle are for the four Sundays before Christmas. Three are purple and one is pink. Purple is, of course, the color of royalty, as Christ is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The pink candle is used on the third of the four Sundays, and is the joy candle. In some circles it is called Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin word for "rejoice". The pink represents a change of emphasis, for one week, from the repentence before the Lord, to celebration and rejoicing at the coming of the King and the salvation that He will bring. The fourth week marks a return to the preparation phase and a purple candle acknowledging His royalty and Kingship. The four candles, or weeks, represent a time of waiting, and represent as follows:
- Prophets - Hope
- Bethlehem - Love
- Shepherds - Joy
- Angels - Peace.
As we enter this advent season, it will be my sincere desire to put aside busyness and the commercial trappings of the Christmas retailers and examine my heart in preparation for the Coming King. Who will join me in the pursuit of a pure heart as we seek to find the hope, love, joy, and peace that only Christ the King can bring?