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Wreaths, Candles, and the Real Meaning of the Season
The weeks leading up to Christmas are filled with holiday songs, seasonal sales, decorations, lights, and sometimes Advent wreaths and candles. Why? What is it that we’re celebrating? What is Advent?
Each year the Catholic Church gives us an incredible opportunity for a powerful encounter with Jesus. In her genius, the Church invites us during Advent to take a step back and look at who we are, what we are doing, and where Jesus fits into our lives.
Jesus came into this world at that first Christmas for you, to bring meaning and deep satisfaction into your life, to fill you with lasting joy, and ultimately to bring you to eternal happiness with him in heaven. That’s what we celebrate at Christmas. Are you ready?
The word “advent” (the arrival of an important person or thing) is derived from the Latin word “adventus,” which means “coming.” For Catholics, Advent is the four-week season leading up to Christmas. During Advent we anticipate the coming of Jesus. It’s a time full of reflection, excitement, and hope.
Advent officially begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on December 24. It marks the beginning of the Catholic Church’s calendar year. Advent starts on December 2, 2018.
We have a shorter Advent this year (only twenty-two days long!). Christmas Eve is the Fourth Monday of Advent, with Christmas falling on Tuesday. 4 weeks isn't long, but that still leaves plenty of time to spend some quiet time preparing for Jesus’ coming. Common Advent traditions include an Advent calendar, the Advent wreath, and special Advent prayers.
During Advent and Christmas, festively decorated evergreen wreaths hang in windows and on doors everywhere. In many homes and churches, it’s also common to see special wreaths lying on tables or ledges, adorned with four4 candles (usually three purple and one1 pink). This familiar symbol of the season is the Advent wreath.
Traditionally, the Advent wreath is a circle of evergreen branches. Both the evergreen branches and the circular shape symbolize the passing of time and eternal life. The shape of the wreath, with no beginning or end, reflects the complete and endless love that Jesus has for us. During the Advent season, we eagerly anticipate his coming and the promise of eternal life in heaven with him.
As a Christian tradition, the wreath holds the four Advent candles. The candles represent Jesus coming as the light in darkness. One candle is lit each Sunday until all four candles are lit, and sometimes a fifth candle is lit on Christmas. As Christmas draws nearer, each candle brings a little more light into the darkness.
Each of the candles represents an aspect of preparation during the season of Advent:
Think about it this way. We prepare for everything we consider important in life. You wouldn’t show up to play in a football game and expect to win if you had not been training. You wouldn’t show up unprepared to give a big presentation at work and expect to get the project. We don’t expect to excel in exams if we have not studied. Consider the preparation that goes into hosting a barbecue, a dinner party, or a wedding.
Now I don’t mean the typical Christmas preparations. Buying and wrapping presents. Baking cookies. Planning parties. Putting up the lights, the tree, and other decorations. I mean preparing you. When was the last time you prepared your heart for Jesus’ coming at Christmas?
Looking for a simple way to start preparing your heart to receive the Jesus, this Christmas season? Join us for Best Advent Ever.
We prepare for everything we consider important in life. In every case preparation makes a wonderful experience possible. When was the last time you prepared your heart for Christmas?
Advent is a season of preparation. And if we want to experience the true magic and meaning of Christmas, we need to take a break from our to-do lists and get our hearts ready for Christmas.