ADVENT THEMES: All the Old Testament readings for the season of Advent are messages of hope and promise. They come from prophets whose mission was to remind God’s people that they were indeed “called by a promise of peace and justice.” Perhaps questions we might ask ourselves are: “How do I say yes to the Lord’s invitation?” “How do I put into daily practice what I hear God’s Word saying?” “Which actions of mine flow from charity and which from justice?” The prophets remind us of God’s reign that is yet to come: a reign where there will be peace and justice for all. In some of the most beautiful poetry of the Bible, the prophets speak of that peace and justice that is the birthright of every person. The hopes and visions that God has for us, his chosen ones, is what we wait for. Each week, after the Our Father, the presiding minister prays, “… keep us free from anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.” Peace and justice is the facet of the Paschal Mystery that shines forth during this season of Joyful expectation.
ADVENT WREATH: The Advent wreath, like many of our customs at Christmas traces its origin to pre-Christian times when candles were lit during the winter to the “sun-god” asking for light. It was the Lutherans who started the Advent wreath as a Christian custom. The word “advent” comes from the Latin term for arrival or “coming.” It is the season when we await the coming of the Lord in time and at the end of time.
The Advent wreath usually has four candles, three purple or sarum blue and one pink to match the color of the vestments of the week. The candles are lit on the Sundays of Advent. The first candle, called the Prophets’ Candle, is lit on the first Sunday of Advent, then the second candle, called the Bethlehem Candle, is lit on the second Sunday along with the first. On the third Sunday of Advent a pink candle, called the Shepherds’ Candle, is lit representing “Rejoice” Sunday, and then the fourth candle, called the Angels’ Candle, is lit on the last Sunday of Advent. Sometimes a white candle is placed in the center of the wreath and is called the Christ candle. Sometimes the flame from that candle is used to light the others. In some parishes, the white candle remains unlit until Christmas Eve.
A different explanation of the meaning of the candles can sound like the greetings we use in our Christmas cards. This explanation says that the candles represent “hope,” “love,” “joy,” and “peace.” For this reason the wreath can also be used during the Christmas celebrations but with candles that are all white.