Without question, the most exciting part of this time of year for me is looking in our family Christmas box to find out if we have 4 red candles and 1 gold candle ready for placing in our Advent Wreath. This will take pride of place (and most of the space) on our kitchen table from the first Sunday of Advent (November 27th this year) until Epiphany on January 6th. If there are no candles then it will be down to Oxfam to get some (although the gold candle is more of a challenge to find). Some people (probably heretics) suggest alternative colours for the candles (e.g. 4 blue candles, 3 purple + 1 rose, etc.) but I like to play it safe and stick to 4 red candles. The Church of England website says this about Advent Wreaths and the candles:
The lighting of candles on an Advent wreath was imported into Britain from northern Europe in the nineteenth century, and is now a common practice.
The Advent Wreath has four red or blue candles in a ring around a white or gold candle. Alternatively, there may be three purple candles, reflecting the liturgical colour for Advent, with a pink candle for the Third Sunday, when rose-pink vestments are traditionally worn. The first candle is lit on Advent Sunday; additional ones are lit, one on each Sunday, and the white or gold one on Christmas Day.
There are several traditions about the meaning or theme of each candle. [A tradition that links in well with Church readings during Advent is]
|John the Baptist
|The Virgin Mary
Each of the four Sundays then reminds us of those who prepared for the coming of Christ. ‘The Patriarchs’ can naturally focus on Abraham, our father in faith, and David, the ancestor in whose city Jesus was born. ‘The Prophets’ gives an opportunity to reflect on the way the birth of the Messiah was ‘foretold’. John, who proclaimed the Saviour, and Mary, who bore him in her womb, complete the picture.
I hope you find as much enjoyment as I do when encountering the Advent candles in your church or home this Advent. I pray that this will lead us all to prayerful reflection on the 4 themes as we prepare for Christmas.