During the holiday season many hear about Advent and stores have advent calendars everywhere, but not many know the origins of the tradition.
What is Advent?
Advent usually begins the Sunday following Thanksgiving, however, many observe it on the first of December leading up to Christmas Day. The word "advent" means "coming" or "arrival" in Latin. During the time it is celebrated, it is meant to point to the coming or arrival of the birth of Jesus Christ. The origin of the tradition is unknown but records have been found of churches celebrating Advent as early as the fourth century AD. The earliest mention is found in documents from the Council of Sargossa (380 AD) when members met to address a mystical-movement during that time.
Looking to the coming of Christ makes Advent a period of waiting and anticipation. Christians would fast and end in a celebration. Today, many will recognize the candles lit on each Sunday leading up to Christmas. There are three purple candles and one pink candle.
What do the candles mean?
- The first candle symbolizes hope and is called the "Prophet’s Candle." The prophets of the Old Testament, especially Isaiah, waited in hope for the Messiah’s arrival. The purple color symbolizes royalty, repentance and fasting.
- The second candle represents faith and is called "Bethlehem’s Candle." Micah had foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, which is also the birthplace of King David. The second candle is also purple to symbolism preparation for Jesus to come.
- The third candle symbolizes joy and is called the "Shepherd’s Candle." To the shepherd’s great joy, the angels announced that Jesus came for humble, unimportant people like them, too. This candle is colored pink to represent joyfulness and rejoicing.
- The fourth candle represents peace and is called the "Angel’s Candle." The angels announced that Jesus came to bring peace—he came to bring people close to God and to each other again. This color is also purple to represent the culmination of love through the Messiah.
- Recognized in some denominations, the fifth candle represents light and purity and is called "Christ’s candle." It is placed in the middle and is lit on Christmas Day. This candle is white to represent purity, or Christ at the center.
Observing advent is a time for Christians to wait in anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ. So what is the meaning for all of the calendars we see? They are used to count down the days until Jesus' birth. Many contain small gifts to build excitement for Christmas Day. Many have other traditions and rituals around Advent but the history is age-old.
From the catalog
Here are some books and resources about Advent and the surrounding season:
2019 Magnificat Advent Companion
The Jesus Storybook Bible A Christmas Collection