Symbolism of the Advent wreath

"My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of his servant." Luke 1:46-48.

That was how Mary, the mother of Jesus, started her song of praise after meeting her relative Elizabeth who would soon give birth to John the Baptist.

Christmas is indeed a time of joy! We celebrate the birth of our Savior. Many things symbolize that joy, one of which is the Christmas wreath. Christmas wreaths are so beautiful. Whether they are made from evergreen, pine cones, tinsel, Styrofoam, wood or rope, when a wreath is hanging on someone's front door it just seems to say "Welcome" as well as inspiring some Christmas joy.

In ancient Rome, people used decorative wreaths as a sign of victory. Some believe that this is where the hanging of wreaths on doors came from. Those who had won their race and received the winning crown wreath would preserve it by hanging it up to dry.

The origins of the Advent wreath can be traced to a Lutheran tradition in Germany to celebrate their Advent hope in Christ, the everlasting Light. The Advent wreath is made of evergreen and is symbolic of eternity in God's grace. From Germany the use of the Advent wreath spread to other parts of the Christian world. Traditionally, the wreath is made of four candles in a circle of evergreens with a fifth candle in the middle.

Three candles are purple and the fourth is rose, but four white candles or four violet candles can also be used. Each Sunday the candles are lit " one candle the first week, and then another each succeeding week until Dec. 24. The last candle is the middle candle. The lighting of this candle takes place on Christmas Eve. It represents Jesus Christ being born. According to some traditions the three purple candles represent penance, sorrow and expectation, and the one pink or rose-colored candle stands for hope and joy.

I like to think of the word JOY as an acrostic that gives a recipe for joy: When we put Jesus first in our lives, Others second, and Yourself last, then we will experience joy. Jesus came to save us and set us apart for service in His kingdom.

My favorite apostle writes in his letter of joy: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." " Philippians 4:4-7

Christmas blessings to you.

- Everett Garwood is pastor of River of Life Lutheran Church in Dayton and is a member of the Dayton Ministerial Fellowship.


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