It’s that expectant time of year that’s different, but also so familiar, as we repeatedly celebrate a ritual that’s ensconced in both home and worship spaces. Had people not been familiar with the symbolism of the Advent Candles, it would almost seem like a simple secular gesture.
School children bring in candles and finesse it around a wreath to be placed in a favored place in the classroom. Parents herald the coming of Christmas via a similar ritual in their homes. All, to soon be replaced by cresches, foretelling the wonder of what’s to come.
And our churches, of course, place the simple but elegant Advent wreath in a place of prominence in the sanctuary, ushering in the four weeks prior to Christmas in memory of the coming of the savior. The mystical fragrances of evergreen pine and the faint aroma of incense from previous years, mix in wondrous ways in our sanctuaries and our collective memories.
”Oh Come Emmanuel” add a sanctifying grace to our wait in heralding the New Savior.
Four Candles and a Promise- the promise of salvation in the form of a child. It’s a beautiful covenant between man and God, and renewed annually.
Actually, the word “Advent” derives from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming.” In this case, it of course refers to the coming birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas and perhaps also the return of Christ during the second coming. It begins on the Sunday that is closest to St Andrew’s Day, this year Dec 3rd.
Traditionally, Catholics and all Christian’s will focus on preparatory prayer this time of year. Priests will sometimes wear purple vestments during this period as a reminder of its special seasonal significance. Ministers wear purple stoles or robes.
Four Candles, three purple ones, and a pink one for the last week of Advent, are ritualistically lit the beginning of each of the four weeks.
Seemingly simple gestures, but oh so powerful, in welcoming that special person, who would come to earth so that man could forever live.