Most churches will have an advent wreath, holding four candles on the outside, and a candle in the center. Churches will light a new candle each week, leading up to Christmas, and on Christmas or Christmas Eve, light the center candle.
Each candle tends to represent something such as hope, joy, etc. This article will highlight the first candle of advent: the candle of hope.
The History of the Advent Wreath
The Catholic church adopted this tradition during the Middle Ages, as a way to prepare the hearts and minds for Christmas. The word advent itself comes from the Latin word “adventus” meaning “arrival.” We prepare for the arrival of Christ. The wreath itself represents eternity and everlasting life, a circle that never ends (John 3:16).
Some have traced the origin of Advent as far back as the 4th or 5th century, but most would agree that the advent we’ve come to know now, symbols and all, started from the Middle Ages onward to the 1800s.
As for the other candles, they have important symbolic elements as well. Three purple candles, a pink candle, and a white candle adorn the outside and center of the wreath. We’ll focus on the first purple candle: the candle of hope.
The Candle of Hope
In this day and age, where evil abounds and all seems lost, we can also hope that the prophecies about Jesus’ second arrival to earth will also be fulfilled.
The somber purple color on the candle represents repentance and fasting as we anticipate the Lord’s coming. Purple doubles as a color for royalty throughout the Bible, symbolizing God’s kingship and reign.
Christians can often confuse the word hope for wishful thinking. If we hope something will happen, we have no control over whether or not it will take place.
But the biblical sense of hope is very different. Hope, in the Bible, exists as a secure assurance, a trust placed in a trustworthy God. God has not failed us in the past, and therefore, if he claims he will do something in the future, we can have a hope that he will fulfill that claim.
Hope waits and endures. It isn’t flimsy or merely wishful thinking. It can withstand fire, trials, and despair.
Why Does This Matter?
Hope is an important thing. It helps us during significant trials or times of distress. It offers us security that God will arrive and though we cannot see him now, we will see him face to face one day (Hebrews 11).
In lieu of advent, it helps us to recognize the hope the Israelites experienced throughout the Old Testament, especially during the time of the prophets, such as Isaiah. They yearned for a Messiah to save them from their enemies, and ultimately, the greatest enemy: their sin.
Like the prophets, we also hope. We hope Jesus will return soon to this dark and despairing world.
Advent Wreath Prayer Week 1 — Hope
Heavenly Father, Advent is a time for remembering and reflecting on the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Father, I pray that you will turn our hearts toward you as Christmas approaches. Let us not get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season this year and miss the chance to celebrate the gifts of hope, peace, joy, love, that you sent to us on that first Christmas.
Father God, every word in scripture points to the gift of hope that we have because of Christ Jesus. The Christmas story wasn’t the beginning of that message of hope because the old testament is full of glimpses of your plan to redeem your people and restore them into a relationship with you, but we are able to truly begin to see and understand just how great your love for us is when we read the story of Jesus’ birth in scripture.
You showed us a glimmer of that hope as you chose to send your son into this earth through a family tree that was a little bent and scarred. We glanced it again as you chose a tribe that was small and a city that was lowly. It can be seen when we recognize that you don’t send your Son to be birthed in a fancy palace among the wealthy and the elite, but our King of Kings and Lord of Lords was born among common shepherds and livestock in a barn.
Help us to see that you are with us. Nothing is too difficult, too messy, or too dirty for you. Jesus came to give us the gift of eternal life through the salvation that only you, our Heavenly Father, can give when we believe on your Son, repent of our sins, and confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
That first Christmas, you gave us the gift of hope wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. Thank you, Father, for your immeasurable gift. In Jesus’ precious name, we pray. Amen
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Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 500 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze, (Illuminate YA) released in June, and they contracted the sequel Den for July 2020. Find out more about her here.