As an ageless symbol of the light of the world and the passage of time until Christmas, the hanging of an advent wreath marks the beginning of the yuletide celebration. As this tradition came down to us by the beginning of this century, it involved three purple candles and one pink candle. The purple and pink candles are placed on an evergreen wreath which symbolizes the eternity of God and everlasting life. The purple candles are lit on the first, second and fourth Sundays of Advent. They represent penance and match the purple paraments on the altar (purple for the royalty of the coming King). The pink candle is lit on the third Sunday, also called Gaudete ("Gaudete" means "Rejoice!" in Latin), which is a time to be joyful and celebrate the approach of Christmas. Some advent wreaths have a fifth candle called the CHRIST Candle - that is white - and meant to be lit on Christmas day.
As the darkness deepens and winter comes, each week we light one more candle to speak of our hope for the coming light. Much has been made of the symbolism of the Advent wreath, each candle given a particular meaning. Actually, it is the action of lighting one more candle in the darkness that bears its deepest meaning. In the face of growing darkness, the church brings more light. Since our sanctuary gathers us in a circle, we imagine ourselves as the wreath, bearing in our hearts the light of Christ.
Light these candles again on all the 12 nights of Christmas.
ACTIVITY FOR CHILDREN:
A Wreath of Kindnesses
Make a wreath for each child in the household from a paper plate with the center cut out. Attach one pink and three purple candles made of cardstock colored with markers by bending the bottom of each about 3/4 inch and gluing them down. Glue a paper flame to the top of each candle. Cut out dark and light green slightly elongated construction-paper hearts, and give each child a thick stack. Each time the child does something kind during Advent, he can write the deed on a heart and glue it to his wreath. As the acts of kindness mount, the wreath gets nice and full.