The Advent wreath is a fairly recent addition to our tradition. It was first adopted as a liturgy for use in the home by families interested in increasing excitement for the Celebration of the Nativity. It was also a way to focus on Jesus Christ, the real reason we have a cause to celebrate at all.
The Advent wreath is a circular evergreen wreath with five candles, four around the wreath and one in the center. It has been for many people a powerful liturgy and that is why it has evolved into something that many churches include in their Sunday morning liturgy during the Advent Season.
The exact meaning given to the various aspects of the wreath is not as important as the story. The symbolism of the wreath is different from community but some basic symbols have become commonplace.
The circle of the wreath reminds us of God, his steadfast love. The green of the wreath also speaks of God’s everlasting love. The four outer candles represent the period of waiting and anticipation during the four Sundays of Advent as we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ.
The colors of the candles vary with different traditions, but there are often three purple or blue candles, and one pink or rose candle. One of the candles is lit each Sunday during Advent. The first candle is traditionally the candle of Hope. The second is peace. The third is Joy, which marks a shift from the more solemn tone of the first two Sundays of Advent to a more joyous atmosphere of anticipation and expectancy. If a pink candle is used, it is lit on the third Sunday. For many it represents Mary, the mother of the baby Jesus and the joy she experiences. The fourth candle is Love.
The flames of the candles are symbolic in and of themselves. The light reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world, a light that dispels the darkness and brings us hope.
Finally, the light that has come into the world is plainly visible as the Christ candle is lit on Christmas Eve, and worshippers rejoice over the fact that the promise has been realized. The central location of the Christ Candle reminds us that the incarnation is the heart of the season, giving light to the world