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Advent is a season of waiting, expecting, and hoping. Beginning four Sundays prior to Christmas and ending on Christmas Eve, Advent helps us to prepare for the coming, or “advent” of the Christ child at Christmas. (The word “advent” comes from the Latin word that means “coming.”)
For hundreds of years Christians have used an Advent wreath to inspire their hopes for the coming of Christ. By lighting candles and reading Bible verses, we are reminded about the meaning of Christ’s birth and become more excited about his coming in the past, in the future, and in our own lives.
There is no set meaning for the candles of the Advent wreath (except for the middle candle, which always signifies the birth of Jesus the Christ). Some wreaths use all white candles; others use three purple candles, one pink candle, and one white candle in the middle. The purple candles remind us of how serious and solemn God’s people have been in waiting for the Messiah. The pink signifies the joy of our waiting. The white is triumphant and celebrative because Christ is born.
What follows is a guide for personal worship that can accompany the lighting of the candles of the Advent wreath. You can do this on your own with a real Advent wreath. Or you can do this online by “lighting” the wreath through appropriate clicking. Or you can use this guide with your family, which might certainly include friends. All families are different, and I encourage you to adapt or to change what is suggested — or do something completely original. Parents will want to make changes to fit the developmental stages of their children.
Speaking of children, they have great expectations and hopes during Advent — usually associated with Christmas presents, Santa Claus, holiday celebrations, and so forth. Rather than discouraging these hopes (which is a “hopeless” task!), I would urge you to help your children get the “feel” of Advent by relating their hopes to biblical Advent themes.
I pray that this guide will help you prepare for the coming of the Christ child!
[This year we are joining Mark Roberts’ Advent liturgies.]