by Graham Mol
Yesterday, Sunday 28 November, marked the beginning of Advent on the Christian liturgical calendar. At New Harvest we do not follow a particular liturgy but we can still learn and benefit from these traditions as their purpose is to help us to acknowledge and meditate on the wonderful truths of God’s word.
The purpose of Advent is to help us pause from all the busyness of this time of year and be mindful of both Christ’s coming to this earth in the past and His return in the future. It is a time of preparation as we reflect on the year that has passed recognising that only Jesus can solve the ills that we face in this world. We are thankful that He stepped down from glory and intervened. Jesus is still involved in our daily lives to this day.
During Advent, candles are often lit, either daily or weekly, representing different aspects of focus during the build up to Christmas. As I read up about the different practices and traditions that are followed, I came across the following practice in lighting Advent candles: (from ourlittleroses.org)
The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent, and one candle is lit each Sunday. Three of the candles are purple because the colour violet is a liturgical color that signifies a time of prayer, penance, and sacrifice.
- The first candle, which is purple, symbolizes hope. It is sometimes called the “Prophecy Candle” in remembrance of the prophets, especially Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. It represents the expectation felt in anticipation of the coming Messiah.
- The second candle, also purple, represents faith. It is called the “Bethlehem Candle” as a reminder of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem.
- The third candle is pink and symbolizes joy. It is called the “Shepherd’s Candle,” and is pink because rose is a liturgical colour for joy. The third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete Sunday and is meant to remind us of the joy that the world experienced at the birth of Jesus, as well as the joy that the faithful have reached the midpoint of Advent.
- On the fourth week of Advent, we light the final purple candle to mark the final week of prayer and penance as we wait for the birth of our Savior. This final candle, the “Angel’s Candle,” symbolizes peace. It reminds us of the message of the angels: “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.”
- Sometimes a white candle is placed in the middle of the wreath; this is a beautiful modern adaptation. The white candle is lit on Christmas Eve. This candle is called the “Christ Candle” and represents the life of Christ. The colour white is for purity—because Christ is our sinless, pure Saviour.
I can definitely see how the lighting of the candles would act as a reminder of the beauty and wonder of the Christmas story. Now, you don’t need to go out and get an Advent wreath with purple candles to celebrate this season, but maybe it is a good idea to find some way to help you reflect on the significance of the birth of Christ, and what it means for us today. Small, symbolic acts are a powerful way of slowing down, taking our focus off of all that’s going on around us and placing it firmly on Christ.
My wife found this idea of a “Names of Jesus Christmas Countdown” where you can print off and cut out star-shaped ornaments that each have a different name or title for Jesus along with a Scripture reference. Each day you can hang up one of the ornaments and read the related Bible verse. This could work well as a family activity or personal devotion. We’re looking forward to sharing it with our kids this December.
Here is the link if you’d like to try it out: https://hymnsandverses.com/names-of-jesus-christmas-countdown-ornaments/