22 Nov The Meaning of Advent
Every year, the Advent period is marked by colourful special calendars and evergreen (fir, holly and/or ivy) wreaths adorned with four or five candles. Churches hold special services, often known as Christingle services, and members of the clergy will usually wear royal blue or purple robes for this services. But what is it all about?
Derived from ‘adventus, a Latin word meaning ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’, Advent marks the beginning of the church’s new year and is the time Christians prepare for the celebrations marking the birth of Jesus. It is also a time to look forward to the return of Jesus.
Holly and holly wreaths had significant meanings long before Christianity came into play. The ancient Druids, for instance, considered holly to be sacred, as it remained green all year – which led to the belief that it had ‘magical powers’.
The circular shape of a wreath is a symbol of eternity/eternal life, as it has no beginning and end. This symbolism was so powerful in ancient Rome that decorative wreaths were used as signs of victory. Eventually, these wreaths were adopted for Christian celebrations. Considered to be ‘heathen and dangerous’, wreaths (and, in fact, all ‘Christmas greens’) were eventually banned by a Catholic bishop in Germany in 575 AD.
Reintroduced in Germany by Lutherans during the 16th Century, Advent wreaths in their current form and meaning were not introduced to North America and subsequently the rest of the world until the 1930s. Typically circular and made from fir, holly and/or ivy, today’s wreaths symbolise God without beginning or end, with the evergreen serving as a reminder of God’s unchanging nature. Holly also symbolises the crown of thorns worn by Jesus at the crucifixion. As a rule, a wreath will be adorned with four candles around its circumference and a fifth one in the middle.
The Candles and Their Meaning
Candles around the wreath may be red or, as is often the case, include three purple and one white or pink candle. The centre-candle is usually white. Unlit, these candles represent darkness. The candles are then lit as follows:
- On the first Advent Sunday, the first candle is lit (if purple and pink are used, the first three candles lit will be purple). It represents Hope, so on this day, all prayers focus on hope.
- On the second Sunday, both the first and second candle (again purple) are lit. The second candle symbolises the Peace of God and reminds Christians of the prophets who foretold the Messiah’s birth.
- On the third Sunday, candles one, two and three are lit (all purple), with the third candle, the candle of Love, representing John the Baptist, the man who baptised Jesus.
- On the fourth Sunday, all four candles are lit. The fourth, pink, candle is the candle of Joy and reminds Christians of Mary, Jesus’ mother.
Lit on Christmas Day (together with the first four candles), the fifth and final, white candle in the centre is a reminder and celebration of Jesus’ birth.
Many families use this time to reflect on the year gone by and plan/prepare for the year to come. I can help you prepare for what lies ahead with a psychic phone reading.
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