The first day of Advent this year (2019) is December 1st.
The ritual surrounding Advent wreaths is simple—light a candle and read from Scripture on each of the four Sundays before Christmas. An Advent wreath isn’t a ‘wreath’ in the regular sense of the word, but a round tabletop candleholder with four places for candles. (I found mine at Goodwill.) The circular shape reminds us that the Christmas season is only one point along the way in the cycle of days where we live. By marking the four Sundays of Advent with the weekly candles, we stretch out the anticipation and provide ourselves the needed space to slow down.
Church liturgy tells us the candle colors for an Advent wreath consist of one pink candle and three purple candles. There also may be one candle in the middle, white or gold, which is the Christ candle and remains unlit until Christmas Eve. Each week your family can formally observe this waiting season by lighting a candle and repeating the traditional words of Advent, taken from the Gospel of John Chapter 15:
Candlelighter: “Jesus Christ is the light of the world.”
Everyone else: “The light no darkness overcomes.”
This weekly practice also involves Scripture reading that includes verses about a biblical person identified with that day. The week’s candle is lit and someone reads the Bible verse associated with that week. Your kids can take turns with candle lighting and, if they are able, reading the Bible passage. These are the candle colors and watchwords for Advent:
CANDLE COLOR DAY WATCHWORD-PERSON, PASSAGE
Purple First Sunday WAIT Isaiah Psalm 130:5,6, Isaiah 9:5-7
Purple Second Sunday PREPARE John the Baptist (Luke 1:76-79)
Pink Third Sunday REJOICE Mary, Jesus’ Mother (Luke 1:46-55)
Purple Fourth Sunday LOVE Jesus (John 3:16)
White/Gold Christmas Day EMMANUEL Jesus’ Birth (Luke 2:6-16)
- May I suggest you don’t have to use pink and purple candles if you use an Advent wreath? Remember, our mantra is “adopt or adapt.” Yes, the liturgical colors are symbolic and important—purple for repentance, pink for joy, white for purity—but the point is not the color. The point is to remind yourself each week that Jesus is the light of the world. (And frankly, pink and purple make me think of pastel Easter eggs. Different holiday.)
- If all you have is red, green or gold candles, use those. If the white candles were on sale, use those. Make your own “wreath” by setting four candles in a circle on a tray with the Christ candle in the middle. Use what you have and do what works for you. The point is to slow down and remember.
More Action Ideas and practical notes are in my book “Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas.”