The lighting of the candles in the Advent Wreath has been a long-standing tradition within many churches and homes. It began in the sixteenth century in Europe, yet it is less than 100 years old in North America. I did not experience it myself until recently, when I worked in a church which lit a candle on each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. This year I gave a wreath to my son and his wife, along with an adapted "advent practices" calendar for each day, and I set up a wreath in our own home for the first time.
The wreath's circle is a symbol of eternal life, and like the circle of a wedding band, reminds Christians of God's endless love and mercy. The evergreen leaves represent the hope of eternal life brought by Jesus Christ. The candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through the birth of Jesus Christ. Various colours have been used for the candles throughout the centuries but each one represents four aspects of our faith to focus on in preparation for the second coming of Christ and also as a remembrance of his first coming as a baby.(1)
Week 1 candle represents hope, week 2 either faith or peace, week 3 is joy and week 4 is light.
As is the case with all symbols, they speak most loudly to remind us of God's promises of life when they are drawn directly out of our daily experience. Traditions and symbols are contemplative prompts which help refocus my mind and calm my heart. In this season, one is tempted to be swept away by the barrage of consumerism and excessive number of options for attending seasonally-themed events, programs and social gatherings.
Instead of becoming overwhelmed, I want to set aside time, using prompts and symbols which return my focus to the One who is the Source of hope, faith, peace, joy, light and life.Today I am reflecting on peace.
The second week of Advent we remember the gift of Peace we have in Christ. Peace is a gift that we must prepare for and work to preserve. God gives us the gift of peace when we turn to him in faith.
Through John the Baptist and all the other prophets, God asks us to prepare the way of the Lord, whom the prophet Isaiah calls “the Prince of Peace.” As we light this candle today we look with hope for the day that Christ’s peace will reign in our hearts, in our homes, in our communities, and in our world. As we light this candle, we are reminded to work for that peace of Christ to come and take root in us. (2)
As we light the first candle for hope and today's candle for peace, we share with each other how we have experienced peace recently.
Loving God, we thank you for the gift of peace you give us through Jesus. Help us prepare our hearts for the Lord’s coming by working for Christ’s peace to take root in our family. We ask this in the name of the one born in Bethlehem, Jesus our Lord. (2)Consider sharing your thoughts on peace today with your family members, and/or in the comments section. May peace be yours is great abundance today!
(1) Geddes, Gordon; Griffiths, Jane (2002). Christian Belief and Practice. Heinemann. p. 97.
(2) Advent Week Prayers, downloadable PDF (adapted)
(3) Other resources: Wikipedia and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America