What is Advent? Why do we celebrate it with a wreath and candles? Why don’t we just call it Christmas?
The church has seasons, in the same way farming has seasons, that draw our attention to what God is doing in our lives through the life we share in the world. So as the world gets darker in our hemisphere, and the noise of Christmas shopping increases, we slow down and wait with anticipation for Christmas. Christmas for us starts on December 25th and goes until January 6th, leaving us this time we call Advent to think, wonder, and encounter the hopefulness of God in the midst of our dark and celestial nights.
The origins of the Advent wreath are complicated, with many interpretations and assumptions about style, purpose, colour and meaning. At its core it is a device to tell time, in that the candles burn down over time which is a physical reminder of time moving towards a goal. But what is that goal? Well, in the wreath there are five candles of different colours. The colour is less important than the meaning, however, because the meaning of the candles are a reminder of the light of Christ which we are preparing to receive again at Christmas. It is for this reason that the centre candle, which we call “the Christ Candle” is the largest of them all -- because it is our goal. It is the Christ candle because we light it only on Christmas day and the days which follow until January 6th as we give thanks for the coming of Christ, the anchor of our hope, at Christmas.
The four candles, sometimes called the “weeks” have just as much folklore around them as they do meaning. While the colour has been correlated to interpretations of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, looking more deeply to the meaning of this season helps us anchor these weeks. The church through scripture, attributes to Jesus the titles of Messiah, the hoped for king, the saviour of the world, the wonderful counsellor *hums bars from Handel's Messiah* We gather to celebrate the ways God in Christ comes to us in all the aspects of our lives in hope for what is possible in an often impossible world, which is why we plant our beacons of hope -- our advent candles, in an evergreen ring.
The hope of evergreens go beyond just aesthetic design, they point to the eternity of God's presence in our world and lives. Combinations of Cedar (for healing); Holly (for the crucifixion); pine and yew (for immortality); Eucalyptus (for purification) make up our wreath. All of which is formed into an unending circle of love we know as Gods time in the advent ring.
In this Advent wreath, its foliage and shape, we are reminded of the nature of new life we encounter at Christmas in the baby Jesus. A new life which asks us everyday to give up our sense of isolation, control, arrogance, war, and phobia, to embrace the kingdom way of life which is about building communities founded on love, a love without any boundary on gender, sexuality, race, or economic status. God's love is for everyone, without exclusion for all time, which the circular wreath reminds us of as we prepare for Christmas.
What about the coloured candles? Why are some purple or blue, and pink and white? Why do they matter?
So how do we make one at home? You will need a few things:
How do we assemble it at home?
How do we use it at home?
Want to know more? Join us every Sunday at 10:30am in Advent and throughout the Christmas Season to learn more about how the wreath symbolises the journey we take together towards the new life of Christmas.
All are welcome!
No previous experience is required!
these lands upon which we worship as the ancestral, cultural, traditional and unceded lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people from time immemorial.