Friday, December 4, 2009

Advent....wassat?


Growing up, neither our church (Assembly of God) nor our family celebrated, nor even mentioned Advent. At least not that I remember. As I grew older and heard of other types of churches celebrating it, I just thought it was another one of those 'liturgical things' that had nothing to do with me.


Just this year I've learned that the Advent-part of our Christmas celebrations can be a very meaningful part of our preparation and celebration of Jesus' birth. For years Dave and I have had a desire for our family to be less 'sucked in' to the growing meaninglessness of the holidays. I have studied Advent for the past weeks with some of my friends and have learned a TON! May I share?


Advent has similar origins as Christmas...started out as a pagan celebration of the sun/light/fire and was tweaked later on (sometime in the sixteenth century) to become what we call Advent now. Here's some more stuff I've learned:


  • The advent wreath is round to symbolize no beginning and no ending of our Great God.

  • The traditional evergreen used in the advent wreath symbolizes the Lord's unchanging love for us. Depending on the evergreens used, there is symbolism behind each type utilized:Laurel - victory over sin and death; Pine, yew - immortality; Cedar - healing and strength; Holly's prickly leaves represent the suffering of Jesus. If you add pinecones, nuts or seedpods to your wreath, they represent resurrection life!!!

  • There are five candles in an advent wreath, showing Jesus as the light of God coming into the world. There are four colored and one white. The four colored candles represent the 4,000 years that passed between Adam and the coming of Jesus. The white one is the Christ candle...white for His purity and holiness. This white candle is a more recent addition to the tradition...the original Advent wreaths only had the four colored candles.

  • Three candles are purple to represent His Royalty. I also read that purple is the color of repentance....but that seems a little random to me...or at least not as well-known as the purple being the 'King's color'. One candle is pink...this is lit on the Sunday closest to Christmas (some light the pink on the third Sunday of advent...I guess it varies!), symbolizing our great joy at the of the closeness of his coming.

  • Advent is celebrated beginning on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. The final white candle is lit on Christmas Eve.

  • Some families/churches have the tradition of putting up their Nativity scenes little by little with each Advent Sunday...and they put the Baby Jesus in His manger on Christmas Eve.

  • The lighting of each candle can accompanied by any or all of the following: a short Bible reading, a devotion, a song, a prayer. Many adhere to the tradition of dousing all other lights except for the light from Advent candles during this time of devotion to the Lord. Cool, huh?

  • On each of the four Sundays prior to Christmas one candle is lit....one on the first Sunday, two on the second Sunday and so on. As Christmas approaches, the candlelight is brighter as His coming gets closer! Some have the tradition of allowing the oldest child to light the first candle and so on down the line. (Insert fire-safety discussion here...)

All that being said, advent wreaths of today can be of any shape and candles of any colors...check out Google Images of advent wreaths. I saw some non-lightable candles made from toilet paper tubes...I saw wire and burlap. I saw candleholders made from apples and all sorts of other materials. Getting the fam together and thinking about the Lord is a good thing whether that includes candles and wreaths or not.


Our own family advent wreath is still in process...and yes, I am aware that the 4th Sunday before Christmas has come and gone this year. I am hoping we'll enjoy the Truth of this little ceremony in our home irregardless of us lighting the candles at the traditionally correct time! The point is not the dates and the ceremony of it all for me...it's more the preparing of our hearts for the real Reason for Christmas.


My apologies for any misinformation above...I've learned this from studying articles on the 'net and from some books and I did not verify the sources...Please feel free to correct me. And also feel free to share your own Advent or Nativity thoughts/traditions. Such RICH truth!

1 comment:

Kathy and Larry Humann said...

Thank you so much for sharing this, Deb!