The Season of Advent

As we walk around the shops and stores, we cannot fail to notice all of the Christmas decorations and merchandise. Whilst I would love to believe that this is done in the true Christmas spirit, the realist part of me suggests that this is good marketing with the aim of boosting the “bottom line” of the balance sheets of the businesses.
For Christians, the time of preparation for Christmas is called Advent. Advent comes from the Latin word "adventus" which means "coming" or "arrival." In Western churches, Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas, or the Sunday closest to November 30, and lasts through to Christmas Eve. 
Advent is a season of spiritual preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ. The season is both a time of celebration and penance. Christians celebrate Advent not only as a way of remembering Christ's first coming as a human baby, but also for his continued presence with us today through the Holy Spirit, and in anticipation of his final return in glory.
Traditionally during this time, we use an Advent wreath containing five candles. One candle is lit each Sunday. Each candle represents an aspect of the spiritual preparation for the coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Set on the branches of the wreath are four candles; three purple candles and one pink candle. In the center of the wreath sits a white candle. As a whole, these candles represent the coming of the light of Christ into the world.

First candle - The Prophecy Candle or Candle of Hope. 
On the first Sunday of Advent, the first purple candle is lit. This candle is typically called the "Prophecy Candle" in remembrance of the prophets, primarily Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. This candle represents hope or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah, Jesus.

Second candle - The Bethlehem Candle, the Candle of Preparation or the Peace Candle.
On the second Sunday of Advent, the second purple candle is lit as a reminder that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The colour purple represented royalty and in this context is a reminder that Jesus is seen by many as being a King. The focus for this week is often on John the Baptist as he called us to repentance to prepare for the coming of the Messiah; the Light sent into the world to show us the way out of darkness and sin.  

Third candle - The Shepherd Candle or The Candle of Joy 
On the third Sunday of Advent the pink, or rose-coloured candle is lit. This pink candle is customarily called the "Shepherds Candle" and it represents joy. The shepherds, some of the first people to see the Christ-child, were amazed and rejoiced at what they saw. Christians believe that the only lasting joy to be found in this life on earth is through Christ. All other joy is fleeting and does not last. 

Fourth candle - The Angel Candle or The Candle of Love 
The fourth and last purple candle, often called the "Angels Candle," represents peace. It 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.

Fifth candle - “Christ Candle” 
The fifth candle represents Christ himself who is born to save people from their sins. It is a celebration of the fulfillment of the prophecies pointing to Christ’s birth, and to the hope in the final fulfillment when Christ will come again. This candle is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning as we celebrate the coming of the light into the world.

As we prepare for Christmas, may we reflect on what these candles represent and find the love, the joy, the hope and the peace that is found in the Christ-mas child, Jesus.

God bless

Rev Dave