Sunday, 4 December 2011

About Advent Wreaths

Rachel asked me earlier why we have an advent wreath at church and one at home and what they're all about.  I gave her a brief answer which seemed to please her, but it made me realise that I really don't know when they were first used or why they became so popular.  After some research I thought I'd share my findings.

It is unclear when the advent wreath was first used.  There is mention that it predates christianity in Europe and that it was used as a symbol of the seasons and the ever continuining light even in the darkest days of winter.    It seems clear that it originated in it's current Christian form in Germany, but whether this was in the 16th or 19th century is unclear.  I was surprised to learn that it is not an ancient tradition in the UK; it did not become popular even in German churches until the early 20th Century. 

The advent wreath is designed to become the focus in the home or church for our waiting for Jesus' birth.  The wreath is a circle of evergreen leaves with four candles placed around and a central white candle in the centre. This circle represents the eternity of God and His endless mercy and love for us; it is green to remind us of the hope in Christ and the eternal life we are gifted.  The four candles are traditionally the royal celebratory colours of red or purple, sometimes the third candle is rose pink to represent joy.

One outer candle is lit on the first Sunday of advent, the second on week two, third of week three and the fourth on the last sunday before Christmas.  The white candle in the centre of the wreath is lit on Christmas Eve, this one represents the birth of Jesus Christ at the centre of our life and worship.

No comments: