Many Christian churches begin their worship services with the lighting of Advent candles during the four weeks leading to Christmas. This didn’t happen in the Methodist church of my childhood, but I am so grateful that now it appears as an important ritual in our United Church of Christ congregation and in countless other Christian churches in America and around the world.
Typically, five candles are arranged on an Advent wreath that is placed in a prominent spot at the front of the sanctuary. Three candles are purple, one is pink and one is white. On the first Sunday of Advent, members of the congregation, often a family with children, come forward to light the first of the purple candles, called the Prophecy candle, remembering the prophets, particularly Isaiah, who foretold the coming of Christ. This candle represents hope in anticipation of Christ’s coming.
On the following Sundays, other candles are lit in the same way. The second candle represents love. Some traditions identify this as the Bethlehem candle, symbolizing Christ’s manger. On the third Sunday, the pink candle is lit. This is called the Shepherds candle and represents joy. The fourth Sunday calls for the lighting of the last purple candle, sometimes called the Angels candle, which represents peace.
Many churches light the white candle in the center on Christmas Eve. This is the Christ candle. White symbolizes purity, and this candle represents a pure, sinless Christ who has come into the world.
Each year, I look forward eagerly to experiencing again this sacred ritual that fills me with an inner peace and joyful anticipation.
Today’s word: Reconcile. This week, make the effort to search out someone you have offended or hurt and make peace. It will heal both of you.