Advent is a time of waiting and preparing for the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. For Christmas.
Taken from the Latin adventus, (coming, arrival, invasion), Advent proclaims the coming of Christ in two ways: it celebrates His long-awaited arrival as Messiah over 2,000 years ago, and it anticipates His imminent return as King of kings and Lord of lords. The Advent celebration, then, is both a commemoration of Christ’s first coming and an anticipation of His second coming. Christians often speak of Christ’s “first advent” and “second advent”; that is, His first and second comings to earth. His first advent was the Incarnation – Christmastime.
Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and lasts through Christmas Eve. In 2022 Advent starts on November 27th and runs to December 24th.
All journeys have destinations of which the traveler may not be fully aware until the journey is complete (Note 1). The Advent story contains several journeys. As followers of Jesus, we are invited to embark upon one of our own. We encourage you to journal your encounters during this season, and that you journey more as a traveler than a tourist.
At WhatNow2Do, we are big on liturgical and other Christian traditions. One of the most common Advent traditions involves the use of evergreen wreaths, branches, and trees. On the first Sunday of Advent, churches and homes are decorated with green to symbolize the eternal life that Jesus brings. An Advent wreath – an evergreen circle with four colored candles surrounding a white one in the middle – is placed in a prominent spot. The candles are lit one at a time on the successive Sundays of Advent (Note 2).
The first candle is the candle of “hope” or “expectation.” The three remaining candles on the perimeter are given various meanings depending on the faith tradition. On Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, the center white candle is lit; this is the “Christ Candle,” a reminder that Jesus, the Light of the World, has come.
The Progression Of Things
A. Consider focusing each week on people or groups in the story of the birth of Jesus:
- Week One: the Prophets;
- Week Two: Mary;
- Week Three: Joseph;
- Week Four: Shepherds.
B. Daily devotional (A.W. Tozer’s From Heaven, etc.).
C. The weeks, the five candles, and their symbolism:
- Use the wreath in conjunction with personal or family devotions on the four Sundays in Advent and optionally on Christmas Eve / Christmas Day, (see 6 below). There are different traditions on (the sequence of) the readings, prayer, and lighting. Follow your heart. We have adopted the one that follows.
- On the first Sunday in Advent, do the reading, and then light the first candle.
- On the second Sunday in Advent, light the candle from the previous Sunday, do the reading, and then light the second candle.
- On the third Sunday in Advent, light the two candles from the previous weeks, in the order you originally lit them, do the reading, and then light the third candle.
- On the fourth Sunday in Advent, light the three candles from the previous weeks, in the order you originally lit them, do the reading, and then light the fourth candle.
- On Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, light the four candles in the order you originally lit them, do the reading, and then light the center candle.
- Some families have adopted the following custom:
- The youngest child lights the candle in the first week.
- The oldest child lights the candles in the second week.
- The mother lights the candles in the third week.
- The father lights the candles in the fourth week.
- Leave the candle(s) burning throughout dinner and/or your Advent devotions / discussions. After dinner and Advent devotions, carefully extinguish all of the candles lest they burn down your house.
D. Readings and Prayers: in personal or family devotions, you can use whatever scriptures and prayers you like. Here are some departure points:
- First Sunday in Advent, Purple Candle, Theme: Hope:
- Readings: Isaiah 9:1-2, 6, 60:1-3, 2:1-5, Romans 15:8-13;
- Prayer: Father, Advent is a time of preparing, waiting, and hoping. We remember Your promise to send a Savior to Your people. We light this candle of hope. We look forward to the day when we can again celebrate the birth of Jesus. We know that You always fulfill Your word, we thank You for Jesus, and look forward to His glorious return. Amen.
- Second Sunday in Advent, Purple Candle, Theme: Love:
- Readings: John 3:16, Matthew 22:36-40, 1 Corinthians 13:13, John 15:12-13, John 13:34-35, Philippians 1:9;
- Prayer: Father, we light this candle to thank You for Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, who is the way. And for Your love for us confirmed through Your Word. Renew our faith so that we may relive the wonder of Your love. Help us see how we can bring God’s message to the people around us, to be messengers of God’s love for everyone. Amen.
- Third Sunday in Advent, Pink Candle. Theme: Joy (Gaudete (“rejoice”) Sunday):
- Readings: Luke 1:39-56, Isaiah 35:10;
- Prayer: Father, on this third Sunday in Advent we light the third candle, which for us represents looking forward with joy and rejoicing to the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. It joins the candles of hope and love. We give You thanks, praise and honor for sending us Your Son, who, having sacrificed His life for ours, lives and reigns with You in Your glory, and in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Oh Mary did you know? Amen.
- Fourth Sunday in Advent, Purple Candle, Theme: Peace:
- Readings: Isaiah 9:6-7, John 14:27, Philippians 4:6-7;
- Prayer: Father, Advent is a time of anticipation of the coming of our savior, Immanuel. Today we light the fourth Advent candle symbolizing peace. We light this candle to thank You for sending Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Thank You for those in our world today who seek to act for peace. Help us to be emissaries of peace in our daily lives, at home, at church, and in our work. Amen.
- Christmas Eve after sundown or on Christmas morning, White Candle, Theme: Unto us a Savior is born:
- Readings: Luke 1:68-79, Luke 2:1-20, John 1:14, Matthew 2:1-12;
- Prayer: Father, we praise You, Lord God, because on this day, Your Word became flesh in our Savior Jesus Christ, was born of a woman, and walked among us as a man. Help us to imitate Your incarnation, by manifesting our faith in our conduct as well as in our speech. To You, O Lord, we give our honor, praise, worship, and love, in the most holy and precious name of the One who is born today; because He lives and reigns with You in Your glory, and in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Note 1: Adapted, Martin Buber (1878 – 1965)
Note 2: Advent traditions are comprised of various candle arrangements. We adopt the five candle theme described.