Advent is the first season of the church year, beginning with the fourth Sunday before Christmas and continuing through the day before Christmas. The name is derived from a Latin word for “coming.” The season is a time of preparation and expectation for the coming celebration of our Lord’s nativity (the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas), and for the final coming of Christ “in power and glory.”
During Advent, we traditionally light special Advent candles, as symbols of our preparation for Christ’s coming. Every Sunday, we light one of four candles, each symbolizing one of the Sundays in Advent. The fifth candle is lit on Christmas Eve.
The candles come in three colors: purple, pink and white. The purple candles symbolize repentance. The pink candle symbolizes joy. The central candle is called the Christ candle and is not lit until Christmas day.
- The First Candle (The Candle of Prophecy/Hope) – The first candle is sometimes called the candle of prophecy because it symbolizes the promises the prophets delivered as messages from God; promises that foretold Christ’s birth. Others consider the candle to be a symbol of the hope we have in Christ and so it is called the Hope candle.
- The Second Candle (The Candle of the Way) – The second candle shows that Christ is the Way. Christians are lost in sin and Christ is the Light sent into the world to show them the way out of darkness.
- The Third Candle (The Candle of Joy) – The third (pink) candle indicates that the only lasting Joy to be found in life on earth is through Christ. All other joy is fleeting and does not last.
- The Fourth Candle (The Candle of Peace) – The fourth candle reminds that Jesus comes to bring Peace to both the world and to people’s hearts. Without Christ, there is no peace in this world.
- The Fifth Candle (The Christ Candle or Christmas Candle) – The fifth candle represents Christ himself who is born to save people from their sins. It is a celebration of the fulfillment of prophecy as represented in Christ’s birth and the hope for the final fulfillment when Christ comes again and all Christians join him.
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
- Isaiah 64:1-9
- 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
- Mark 13:24-37
- Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
Worship Services for the First Sunday in Advent
About the image
“The Archangel Gabriel” by Masolino da Panicale – circa 1430 from the National Gallery of Art.
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