The word ‘Advent’ means “coming” and Christians celebrate the Season of Advent as a time of preparation in anticipation of celebrating Christ’s birth at Christmas. The development of this Advent season finds it’s origins in the Jewish custom of celebrating the New Year in the spring. Early Christians followed this Jewish custom but over a couple of centuries eventually developed rites and traditions for Christmas and the New Year as a mid-winter celebration.
In Advent then we are reminded that throughout our lives we must reflect on Jesus’ incarnation i.e. how Jesus came, what He taught, what He did and how He left us His Spirit and the life of the Church. These ought to instruct our lives and how we live now God’s commandments of love so that healed, converted, transformed and forgiven we will be ready to “greet Him when He comes again” (Roman Sacramentary) in His second coming in glory. It is for this reason that Advent is such an important season in the Church and one which, when properly celebrated, gives so much depth to our Christmas Solemnity. This is because it interprets the meaning of Christ’s Incarnation for the whole of our lives and helps us prepare for his continuous coming adequately. TAKEN FROM THE ADVENT BOOKLET.
Debbie Trafton O’Neal in her book ‘The Advent Wreath’ explains that the original Christian wreath consisted of a circle of wire which represented the unending love of God. The evergreens adorning the wreath symbolized the hope of eternal life that God’s people share. The four candles set in the wreath represented the four weeks until Christmas Day as well as the centuries spent awaiting the coming of the Messiah. The lighting of an additional candle each week in Advent celebrated the growing anticipation for the light that came into the world when Jesus was born. The basic construct of the wreath is maintained to this present day although there have been traditionally some cultural variations.
The use of colour in Church tradition appears in the twelfth century when the colour of purple was assigned to both Advent and Lent. In Advent the colour of purple suggests royalty because we await a King. Traditionally four candles are used in the Advent wreath representing the four Sundays of Advent. Purple candles are used for the first, second and fourth Sundays and a pink or rose coloured candle on the third Sunday represents joy.TAKEN FROM THE ADVENT BOOKLET.