Monday, December 13, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Advent & Advent Wreath

The following is from the twelfth installment of my bulletin insert series:

Advent - Advent marks the beginning of the Christian year. The season of Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It continues until the beginning of the Christmas season, at sundown on Christmas Eve.

Advent means coming. The season proclaims the comings of the Christ - whose birth we prepare to celebrate, who comes continually in Word and Spirit, and whose return we anticipate. Each year Advent calls the community of faith to prepare for these comings.

The Advent Wreath is a wonderful part of the sanctuary during the Advent season, as well as a wonderful part of family worship throughout the weeks leading up to Christmas.

The Advent wreath originated during the Renaissance. The circle of evergreen branches is a symbol of everlasting life for two reasons. First, the use of evergreens symbolize everlasting life. Second, the circle, which has no end, symbolizes eternity.

Four candles (one for each Sunday before Christmas) encircle the Christ candle. Purple is most often used for three of the four candles (the first, second and fourth candles). Purple is a color of both penitence and royalty. Pink or rose is often used on the third Sunday to represent joy. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day the Christ candle is lit. It remains lit throughout the Christmas season, which begins on Christmas (or Christmas Eve) and lasts for twelve days, until Epiphany on January 6. White, a joyous and festive color, represents the purity of the Christ Child.


Thomas said...

Great post...

As a family, we place our Advent Wreath on the dining room table as a centerpiece. Every evening we light the appropriate candle(s), say our meal prayer, and then have a candle-lit dinner. By doing this every day as a part of our regular routine, we are always mindful of the season of Advent and it re-enforces the importance of family meals and family prayer.

Our kids love counting the weeks till Christmas. As more candles are lit and the light increases, their anticipation grows too. We even dim the lights in the room to get the full effect. Something so simple as candlelight in a dark room can be thrilling to a child (especially those who take electricity for granted). Advent doesn't have to be boring - waiting for something to arrive and feeling the excitement build can be its own reward. The candles represent that anticipation and can even add to the excitement.

The kids also notice that the Advent Wreath at Church is just like the one they have at home. And in both places we share a 'common meal' as we light the next candle. Certainly our family meal is not the same as a Communion service, but the parallels that can be drawn do illustrate that the Church's liturgical calendar should be a lived experience.

At Christmas we bring out several more candles from around the house and light them along with the Christ Candle so that the light has increased beyond the light of Advent. And we continue this throughout the Christmas Season.

(I would also add... We wait as long as we can to put up our tree and other decorations during Advent. We put out only the Wreath for at least the first couple of weeks, and slowly build up to the tree. Then after the 25th leave the tree up until the Epiphany. We try to keep Advent in Advent and Christmas in Christmas.)

Todd Stepp said...


That was a great comment!

I really appreciate your sharing about your cande-lit dinners! My wife and I really liked that idea. Indeed, we may adopt it for our own family.

Advent Blessings,