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On Sunday mornings during the Christmas season, as part of our worship service, we light Advent wreath candles in conjunction with a Scripture reading.  You may be wondering about the origin of this practice, and just what an advent wreath is.

As one writer notes, “For four weeks, it’s as if we’re re-enacting, remembering the thousands of years God’s people were anticipating and longing for the coming of God’s salvation, for Jesus.”

To stimulate that remembrance, we use a circular configuration of candles — three purple and one pink (or four red candles) — for the Sundays of Advent and one white candle in the center for Christmas day and the birth of Christ.

The four outside candles are lit each week (one the first week, two the second week,…) representing the longing and anticipation of Christ’s birth.  On Christmas morning, the four candles are lit, plus the center white candle, as we focus our attention on the light of the world, Jesus Christ.

Three purple candles are used to denote the darkness of the world prior to the arrival of the Messiah.  The pink candle, which is lit the fourth week, stands in contrast to the dark candles and symbolizes the love of God and our hope.

The candles are lit in the following order:

  • the Prophecy Candle – a consideration of God’s promises and prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah.
  • the Bethlehem Candle – a remembrance of God’s preparation for the coming Messiah, including even the very place where He would be born.
  • the Shepherd Candle – a reflection on how those who heard of the Messiah’s birth responded, and how we ourselves respond to His act of selfless love.
  • the Angel Candle – an invitation to join in the joy of the angels’ celebration and delight in the Messiah who provides eternal life.
  • the Christ Candle – a recognition that the Messiah is brighter than all others and that life is found through the light of His Word.

At GBC, we typically use the Advent wreath to help our church body prepare for and enjoy the true meaning of Christmas — the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve.

As we light one candle each week, we are reminded about the significance of Christ’s arrival, remembering how and why he was born to be our Savior.  It is our sincere prayer and desire that your worship of our Savior will be more meaningful for you this year as you use the Advent wreath to celebrate His birth.

The prophets “were serving us.  We Christians on this side of Jesus’ birth are a God-blessed, happy people because we know God’s plan.  The ancient waiting is over.  We have the greatest reason to celebrate.” [Noel Piper]