It’s easy to miss it… in all the hustle of the holidays. Amidst the cookie making and gift shopping, present wrapping and party going it’s easy to miss space to take it all in, the holy miracle.
God come down. God made small. God as a fresh skinned baby. A baby who would grow into a man, who would give Himself over in love.
Every Sunday start of Advent, after we have filled ourselves full with turkey and stuffing, we gather around tables filled with evergreens and florist foam wreaths. We clip and we poke branches and berries until our wreaths come alive with colors and forest smells of the season.
The crowning glory, the candles. Three purple, one pink and the center one white, to help us remember… to help us mark the time of this season… to help us prepare our hearts for the one who is coming. The One who is the reason we do all these festivities in the first place.
We carry our living wreaths home and we begin our tradition of telling the story. We telling it again and again every year. The story of God, the God who made all things and how this God becomes small and puts on our skin. He becomes one of us out of love for us.
The wreath reminds us to tell the story.
It sits there on the table each and every day, and each and every evening it invites us to light the candle and tell the story again, the story of God and His love.
And the kids get so excited, they light up with excitement to light the candles and to read the story. It is in the lighting of the candles and the reading of the story that we prepare our hearts for the babe to come. Because more than parties and presents, this season is about a story, The Story, of a God who in love comes all the way down.
This pausing around the living wreath and lighting candle after candle each Sunday and relighting these candles each evening at sunset, it helps us remember. It helps keep us focused on the why of it all. We see the living wreath and it invites us every evening to slow down and to tell the story of how it all happened, the prophets and angels and shepherds who were all part of the story, the most important story ever told in all of human history, the Story of God and His love come down as a babe.
So tomorrow, my family, we will gather around those tables and we will clip and poke and make a new living wreath come alive. And we will carry our living wreath home and begin lighting the candles and we will tell the story over again. And this living wreath, it is perhaps one of the most important thing we do this whole holiday season because this living wreath, it reminds us, it calls us, it invites us to slow down and make space for the Holy.
This wreath, it helps us keep time to the sacred drum beat of God’s love.
The Tradition of the Advent Wreath
Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, is a time when we get ready for the coming of Jesus. We get ready to celebrate his birth. And we remember that he will come again. The Advent Wreath is one of the ways we prepare for Christmas and the celebration of Jesus’ coming.
The circular shape of the wreath, without beginning or end, reminds us of God’s unending love for us and the eternal life we have in Christ. The greenery also reminds us of eternal life.
The wreath holds five candles, 3 purple candles, 1 pink candle and 1 white candle. During the season of Advent, one candle is lit each Sunday until all the candles are lit, the last candle, the white one, being lit on Christmas Day. The candles remind us that Jesus is the “Light of the World.” As Jesus’ advent, or coming, draws near another candle is lit and with each candle lit the light grows and the darkness dims, reminding us “in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” John 1:4b-5
The 1st candle, purple, is the Prophets Candle of Hope. This candle represents the hope that Jesus brings which was foretold by the prophets.
“And again, Isaiah says, ‘The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.’ May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” ~ Romans 15:12-13
The 2nd candle, purple, is the The Bethlehem Candle or the Candle of Preparation. This candle reminds us of his first coming in Bethlehem and reminds us to prepare for the second coming of Christ.
“As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: ‘A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation.‘ ~ Luke 3:4-6
The 3rd candle, pink, is The Shepherds Candle of Joy. This candle reminds us to rejoice at the birth of Christ the way the shepherds did.
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’ When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” ~ Luke 2:13-15
The 4th candle, purple, is The Angels Candle of Love. This candle reminds us of the angels announcement of love come down in the incarnation of Christ, God become flesh.
“…I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” ~ Luke 2:10b-11
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” ~ John 3:16-17
The 5th candle, white, is The Christ Candle. The white candle reminds us of purity and light. Jesus is the spotless lamb who has come into the world to take away our sins. His birth was for His death, His death was for our Life!
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!‘” ~ John 1:29
Using Your Advent Wreath
- Open with a short prayer
- Light the candles each night, adding another candle on Sundays
- Read the Scipture lesson for the day in an Advent devotional or from the lectionary
- Sing a favorite hymn or carol
- Close in prayer.
Resources for the Advent Wreath
- Find Advent Wreath Rings and Advent Candles online. Or find florist foam wreaths and colored candles at your local stores. Decorate with greenery found in your yard or on a walk outside.
- Make your own Advent Wreath using a simple plate and votive candle holders or check out the DIY ideas here.
- Make an Advent Wreath out of your children’s handprints or find a hundred craft ideas for Advent Wreaths here.
Enjoy the richness that the Advent Wreath will bring to your Christmas Season as we prepare and eagerly await the coming of Immanuel, God with us, Jesus Christ our Lord!
Blessings on your holiday season!