This weekend we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent. The word ‘Advent’ means ‘coming’. The celebration of Advent is particularly welcome to those who know themselves to be poor, and who look forward to something greater to come. The season of Advent lasts for four Sundays leading up to Christmas.
The first two Sundays in Advent look forward to Christ’s second coming, and the third and fourth Sundays look back to Christ’s first coming at Bethlehem. The Church celebrates Advent each year to prepare us to celebrate Christ’s coming as an infant in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago.
To help us in our Advent preparation we use the Advent Wreath. The wreath is a circle, which has no beginning or end. Our lives began at birth but like the wreath they will have no end because our destiny is to share in the life of God in the Kingdom of Heaven forever.
The wreath is made of fresh plant material, because Christ came to give us new life through His passion, death, and resurrection. The four candles represent hope, faith, joy, and peace. Three candles are purple, symbolizing penance, preparation, and sacrifice; the pink candle is for joy and highlights the third Sunday of Advent, when we rejoice because our preparation is now half-way finished. A fifth white candle is placed in the middle and is lit on Christmas Day to celebrate Jesus’ birth.
The white candle stands for Christ, who entered this world to scatter the darkness of evil and show us the way to light and joy. The progression of lighting candles each weekend of Advent shows our increasing readiness to meet our Lord. We invite all our people to be aware of the meaning of the Advent wreath and to say a short prayer when they visit the Church. This prayer will help us to focus on the true meaning of Christmas.