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What is Advent?

What does the Advent wreath mean?

The word Advent literally means “coming” or “arrival”.  As Christians, we celebrate the Advent season as a time of anticipation of the arrival of Jesus Christ.  

We remember during this time the Israelites desperation as they waited and hoped for the coming Messiah.  We share in the expectation of the prophets, the preparation of people and circumstances, the joy in the arrival, and in the love that Jesus brings. 


As Christians, we also know that Christmas is only part of the story – that Jesus will come again and we look forward with expectation, preparation, joy and love for His return.

The Advent wreath is a Christian tradition that marks the passage of the four weeks of Advent.  The wreath is full of symbolism:


  • It is circular with no beginning or end, reminding us of the eternal quality of Jesus

  • The evergreen reminds believers that God grants us everlasting life in Jesus.

  • It is a symbol of victory.  Just as a wreath was often placed on victor’s heads, the wreath reminds us that Jesus is the victor over sin and death.

The candles point to Jesus as the Light of the World.  There are 5 candles:  3 purple, one pink and one white.  One candle is lit on each Sunday of Advent (beginning on the first Sunday after Thanksgiving) and the last candle is lit on Christmas Day.  Each candle represents an aspect of preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ birth.  

  • First Candle (purple):  The Prophecy Candle or the Candle of Hope

            Through the prophets in the Old Testament, God promised His people a Messiah, but His people had to wait hundreds of years before those prophesies became a reality.  We can share with the Israelites in learning that God’s timing is not always our timing, but we have hope because God is faithful and will keep the promises that He made to us.   

  • Second Candle (purple):  The Bethlehem Candle or the Candle of Preparation and Peace

            The key to success is preparation.   God knew how important preparation was in sending Jesus to us.  God sent His Son into the world at just the right time, after careful planning and preparation.  In the same way that God prepared people for the arrival of His Son, He still prepares people to embrace the Good News, which is Jesus Christ.

  • Third Candle (purple):  The Shepherd Candle or the Candle of Joy

            When Jesus was born, only a handful of people witnessed the amazing event.  Yet, over 2000 years later, millions of people around the world know who He is.  How did this happen?  It happened through the response of those who met Jesus.  The shepherds responded with awe and joy and “hurried away” to tell others about what they’d seen and heard.  Their actions typify a proper response to the coming of God in Christ Jesus.  

  • Fourth Candle (pink):  The Angel Candle of the Candle of Love

            The final Sunday of Advent concentrates on love – God’s love moving towards us and God’s love flowing from us.  A pink candle is lit this week.  This brighter, lighter colored candle symbolizes the effects of God’s love.  The darkness gives way under the impact of God’s gracious acts.  

  • Fifth Candle (center, white):  the Christ Candle

            The white candle is lit on Christmas Eve.  It is known as the Christ Candle and symbolizes Jesus coming into the world.  The color represents His purity as He is the spotless Lamb of God.  It also reminds us that if we accept Him as our Savior, we will be “made whiter than snow”.    

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