Concerning Advent

The origins of the Advent wreath are somewhat obscure. But it is thought that the first Advent wreath originated in Germany or France within the tradition of the Lutheran Church. The original wreath, a circle of wire, represented the unending love of God. Evergreens adorning the wreath symbolized the hope of eternal life that God’s people share. Four candles set in the wreath represented the four weeks until Christmas Day, as well as the thousands of years people awaited the coming of the Messiah. The lighting of an additional candle each week in Advent marked the growing anticipation for the Light who came into the world at Jesus’ birth. In the early church, white was used as the liturgical color throughout the year. Not until the twelfth century do we find a reference to use of liturgical colors in church tradition. At that time the color red was first used to represent Pentecost. Eventually, colors were assigned to the various seasons of the church year. The color of purple was chosen for both Advent and Lent. Paraments, altar cloths, and stoles used during these seasons have traditionally been purple. The rich color of purple suggests royalty, for we await a King. In recent years, however, royal blue has become the preferred color to be used throughout the season of Advent. Blue not only distinguishes Advent from Lent, but also represents hope and waiting, a primary theme of the weeks before the festival we celebrate on Christmas Day. These traditional uses of color offer guidelines for the color of candles used in the Advent wreath. Traditionally four candles are used, representing the four Sundays of the season of Advent. Purple or blue candles are often used for the First, Second, and Fourth Sundays in Advent, and a pink or rose candle is used on the Third Sunday in Advent. This pink candle represents joy. Some people prefer to use all white candles in their Advent wreath. Or, as the season of Advent comes to an end, the four candles in the wreath might be replaced with fresh white ones on Christmas Eve. The white candle in the center of the wreath is known as the Christ Candle. This candle represents Jesus as the Light of the world. This candle is traditionally lit following the reading of the Holy Gospel on Christmas Eve.