Many of you in your churches and even in your homes are using an Advent Wreath to mark this time as Christmas draws closer and closer. That’s wonderful that so many of you are employing this ancient and meaningful device to make this a memorable and spiritual time. And it’s wonderful that so many of you are resisting the bombardment of our culture to make this time all about buying and buying and buying. From this deliver us, O Lord!
If you are not yet using or perhaps not even familiar with an Advent Wreath, I encourage you to consider adding this to your pre-Christmas tradition. It is particularly effective with children to give them something spiritual to think about in the secular Christmas overload.
For all of us, I thought it would be good to review the meaning of the Advent Wreath. But first let’s back up to what it is and what it looks like.
From the most simple to the much more ornate, every Advent Wreath is a circle of evergreens, in which are embedded four candles evenly spaced around, with one larger candle in the middle. The four candles are either a combination of three blues and one pink, or four blues. Some traditions have a specific faith-concept tied to each of the four; specifically, Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.
On each of the four Sundays before Christmas, which is prescribed as the Advent Season, one, then two, then three, then four candles are lit. The white candle in the middle, usually larger than the others, is lit on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Now, what meanings can be ascribed to each of these components?
The whole experience and action of the Advent Wreath reminds us of waiting and marking the passage of time, specifically waiting with genuine hope, based on the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; that He is God’s only Son sent from heaven, that He died on the cross to forgive us all our sins, and that He rose again to give us eternal life. This is the Hope of The World.
The familiar words of Psalm 23:6 remind us, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” This is the hope we enjoy as we wait through Advent, and as we wait through our earthly lives.
The truth and reality that God is eternal, that He always has been and always will be, is affirmed by the circle that forms the basic shape of the Advent Wreath. Just as a circle has no beginning and no ending, so it is with God Almighty. He is from infinity and to infinity; from eternity and to eternity. This instills great confidence in our believing hearts.
“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting You are God.” Psalm 90:2
“I am the Alpha and the Omega”, says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8
The evergreens that form the circle and in which the four candles are embedded are proclamations that God’s love never dies. Just as the greens of the evergreen trees stay alive throughout the “death” of winter, so God’s love never ends, never dies, even in the difficult and perhaps terrible times in our lives.
We Lutherans hold to the tradition that it was Martin Luther who first brought an evergreen tree into his house to teach his children about the never-ending love of God for the world through His Son Jesus. This should still be in our thoughts when we use our Advent Wreaths and bring our Christmas trees into our houses. Amen!
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.” Lamentations 3:22
Of course, the candles of the Advent Wreath, as do all the candles in our churches and in our worship services, declare to our hearts and to the world that Jesus Christ is The Light of The World, a light no darkness can overcome.
What an important and direly needed message again for us in these times. With so much darkness, so much evil, so much disunity, so much neglect of God’s Will and God’s Ways, we desperately need the reminder that God is in charge still, that Jesus is the King and Sovereign over all things, and that we belong to God through Christ. All this assures us of Christ’s victory over all sin, death, and the devil. Our outcome is secure. Christ wins! We win!
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
I mentioned above that the four candles have various colors and interpretations. We use four blue candles because, in the world of “the meaning of colors,” blue is the color of Hope. And again, Hope is the overall and underlying message for Advent. And this is not just “wishful thinking” hope. It is the Sure Hope and reality and comfort that God is Who He says He is, and that He will do what He says He will do.
Our Hope is the Sure Hope in Christ, hope in our salvation, hope in our future, hope in our eternity. Amen to that! And remember, the word “Amen” means, “Yes! Yes! It shall be so!” And so it shall!
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13
Finally, at least for our discussion here, the flame atop the center white candle decrees the fulfillment of the Promise of the Messiah, our Savior. From the time of the Fall of Adam and Eve, God had promised that He would send a “new Adam” who would fulfill His full and perfect intention for His creation and would be the Savior of the world from sin.
In sending Jesus, His only Son, God did indeed fulfill this most important of all promises. This is the heart of the message of the Advent Wreath. This is the true story of Christmas.
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as His children.” Galatians 4:4-5
So, I encourage you to keep or start using your Advent Wreath. I encourage you to keep Christ in Christmas. I encourage you to remember The Reason for the season. I encourage you to “go to the manger” and worship the Christ-child this Christmas in your home church or find a church near you.
Merry Christmas, everyone. Christ the Savior is born!
[Kollmeyer, a retired Lutheran pastor, is a thirty-six year resident of Fayette County. He offers his pastoral and preaching services to any and all Christians. Reach him at email@example.com.]