Preparing for Advent
As the Christmas season quickly approaches, my family is preparing for Advent. This year our focus will be on a prophecy found in Isaiah.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Each week we will delve into one of these names. Christ fulfilled each of these names in Isaiah. As I studied the names of God for my book Call Signs: How Knowing God’s Character Empowers Women to Accomplish His Mission, I was drawn to the names of all parts of the Trinity. Jesus is called four specific names in this passage. During Advent this year, God drew me to these names. Each candle in the advent wreath represents an attribute we are to work on during the Advent season. These attributes are part of God’s character.
Advent leads us into the Christmas season. My family loves to make traditional Advent wreaths each year. If you want to build your own advent wreath you will need a wreath of evergreens, purple ribbon, three purple candles, one pink candle, and a large white candle. The four colored candles are placed evenly around the wreath with the white candle in the center of the wreath. Each of these items reminds us of parts of the tradition of Advent.
What is Advent? Literally, Advent means “coming” but not just the coming of the baby Jesus. It means coming or arrival, the focus is on Christ’s birth AND His coming again. It is a link between the incarnation, the resurrection, and the second coming of our Savior. Advent symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals or families as they affirm Christ has come, He is present in the world today, and He will come again in power.
Advent is the four Sundays before Christmas which leads to the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany. This time of celebration is approximately 40 days excluding Christmas day. We are preparing for Christ to come again as well as remembering the blessed arrival of His birth. There are many traditions about Advent, including some differences between denominations.
The Advent season is marked by a spirit of hope, faith, joy, and love. It reminds us of Christ and His many names. It is filled with anticipation and longing for Christ’s return, as well as a time of reflection and fasting. During the first two weeks, some denominations encourage people to fast and repent, then break the fast when the Joy candle is illuminated.
When considering what it takes to put together an Advent wreath it is important to realize every item has a purpose in this long-standing Church tradition.
The Wreath is a circle which reminds us of eternal life. It reminds us of God Himself, His eternity, and ENDLESS mercy, which has no beginning or end. Just as the wreath has no beginning or end, God’s love for us has no beginning or end. This is why we exchange marriage rings to show endless love during a wedding ceremony.
The Evergreen Boughs speak of the hope we have in God, the hope of newness and of eternal life. Evergreens remain green when the rest of the forest is brown or covered in snow. It reminds us of God’s never-changing love for us.
Some churches allow these evergreen boughs to hang after Christmas and dry out. Without the life-giving tree, these boughs dry out and wither. The needles fall off and the intertwined branches remind us of the crown of thorns Jesus wore on the cross. To help show that Jesus’ birth would ultimately lead to his death, some churches place these branches on a cross during Holy Week before Easter.
Purple Ribbons are added in remembrance of the Lord’s coming and His royalty. The ribbons can be used to remind us of the gifts of the Magi to Jesus because they revered him as the King of the Jews. Purple is the color of royalty and reminds us of His Kingdom. This color is used in churches during Advent and Easter to remind us of royalty. Christ came to give us forgiveness for our sins. Advent reminds us to repent and to long for the return of the King.
The Candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through the birth of His Son. Three candles are usually violet/purple which stands for penance, royalty, and longing. The one rose/pink candle symbolizes change and joy. They remind us of expectancy and provide a quiet prelude to Christmas’ dramatic brightness. Candles are “living” flames, which are symbolic of Christ.
How do we light the candles? Week one candle is across from the Rose candle. Week two candle is the next one counterclockwise from week one. Why Counterclockwise? Because it goes opposite the way the people used to dance around the fire on the Winter Solstice to separate Christian traditions from pagan rituals. The white candle is in the center of the wreath. It is lit on Christmas eve. A long-running church tradition is to keep the candles burning from Christmas to Epiphany, January 6th. Since I don’t live in a church, and I can’t leave candles burning in my house overnight, I give you dispensation to blow them out each night before going to bed. Our family tradition is to light the Advent Wreath candles each night at family dinner.
Each week I will share with you a short devotion on a name for Jesus in Isaiah 9:6. I will include Scriptures to read and several Christmas carols you can sing. Does your family observe any Advent traditions? If so please share them with me on social media at @mom23wakes or on my website.
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Photo by KaLisa Veer on Unsplash