A Christmas tradition that dates back to the late 4th century is that of Advent. Today Advent is still celebrated by many churches, but not all. The word “advent” comes from the Latin and means “coming.” It was officially established by church leaders in the 6th Century and was meant to be a time when Christians reflected on the meaning of Christmas. Early Christians focused on three different meanings for the word “coming.” First, the coming of God to earth in human form. Second, the coming of Jesus into the lives, hearts, and actions of those who accepted him as their Savior. Finally, the future coming of Jesus when he returns to earth to rule as king.
During the Middle Ages the period of Advent was established as the four Sundays preceding Christmas and the days between. That time frame still exists today. To help reflect on the three comings of Jesus, the Advent wreath slowly evolved. Traditionally, the Advent wreath is an evergreen wreath with four candles nestled among the greenery and a large candle in the center. Of the four candles three were usually purple with one representing hope, one peace, and one love. The fourth, usually red or pink, represented the gift of life given by Jesus on the cross. The center candle was always white, lit on Christmas Eve and represented Jesus’ birth.
While Christmas is still the celebration of God come to earth, with or without Advent, we are able to connect with its true meaning so much more when we take the time to reflect and prepare.