If you are like me, you may not have realized today is the 1st Sunday of Advent until you saw the wreath in the front of the church. I write every year how Advent sneaks up on me, and this year is no different. Today marks four weeks until Christmas. But, before we rush ahead and think about everything to get done by December 25th, let’s take a look at why we celebrate Advent and what the wreath is all about.
“Advent” is from the Latin adventus for “coming” or “arrival.” It originally described the whole mystery of the Incarnation – the Word made Flesh – or Jesus, God with skin, as I like to think. Once Christmas became a popular Christian feast in the 4th century, Advent evolved as a distinct liturgical season to help people prepare for the second and final coming of the Lord with a joyful theme of getting ready to celebrate His first coming.
The Advent wreath tradition originated among Lutherans in Germany in the 16th century. It was probably adopted from a Germanic pagan custom of burning festive lights at the end of November and beginning of December as the darkness of winter set upon them. The Advent wreath was brought to America by German immigrants and became popular among Catholics in the mid-1900s. Wreaths have always symbolized victory and glory. So, the lighting of one wreath candle each Sunday of Advent represents the Light of Christ increasing to push out darkness, until all four candles are burning. The Advent wreath represents the long time when we lived in spiritual darkness, waiting for the coming of the Messiah, the Light of the World.
Each year during Advent, we wait in darkness for the coming of the Lord – His historical coming in the mystery of Bethlehem, His final coming at the end of time, and His special coming every time we accept God’s grace. This year during Advent, don’t just write a letter to Santa, but say a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the gift of Jesus’ birth. May you have a joyful Advent preparing for the coming of Our Lord.