The advent symbols are full of significance relating to the Christmas season.
Many GCI congregations celebrate Advent by having an Advent wreath on a table in the front of the sanctuary. The wreath encircles three purple (or blue) candles and one rose (or pink) candle. There is a white candle in the middle of the wreath. All are symbolic. Each week a theme is read, followed by a Scripture reading. A new candle is lit each week (along with the previous week’s candle), and a prayer is read.
The advent wreath, which is made of evergreens, points to the hope we have in God and signifies eternity and continuous life. The Incarnation of the Son of God did not end 12 days after Christmas, or at the cross. The Son of God became the Son of Man for eternity. The circle of the wreath – which has no beginning or end – symbolizes the everlasting love God has for us and the everlasting life we have in Christ.
The four candles represent the four centuries of waiting between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Jesus Christ. There are different understandings of what the five candles represent. The most common themes are Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Other themes may be Expectation, Hope, Joy, and Purity, or Promise, Preparation, Peace and Adoration. In GCI Equipper, we focus on the common themes.
Three of the candles are blue or purple, symbolizing royalty – which is fitting as we begin Advent focusing on Jesus returning as King of kings and Lord of Lords. The pink candle symbolizes rejoicing, as we anticipate the celebration of his birth and what it means to us and to the world. The center candle is white and it reminds us that Christ is the light of the world; he is the light shining in the midst of darkness. He is Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.
Typically, the lighting of the Advent is done at the beginning of the service and is followed by a Christmas hymn. This is a good time to get members involved in the service. One member can do the reading, light the candle and then pray, or you can involve several each week.
- One person reads the theme
- One person reads the Scripture
- One person lights the candle
- One person reads the prayer after the candle lighting
Following are some suggested readings for Advent 2021.
November 28 – First Sunday of Advent – Purple Candle
Today we light the first candle of the Advent wreath. This is the candle of HOPE. With Christians around the world, we use this light to help us prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of God’s Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. May we receive God’s light as we hear the words of the prophet Isaiah:
We will read from the prophet Isaiah.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned…. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:2, 6-7)
Let us pray:
Lord, as we look to the birth of Jesus, grant that the light of your love for us will help us become lights in the lives of those around us. Prepare our hearts for the joy and gladness of your coming, for Jesus is our hope. Amen.
December 5 – Second Sunday of Advent – Purple Candle
Last week we lit the candle of HOPE. We will relight that candle, and we will light the candle for the second Sunday in Advent. This is the candle of PEACE. As we prepare for the coming of Jesus, we remember that Jesus is our hope and our peace. We will read from the prophet Isaiah, and the apostle John:
A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40-3-5)
The words of Jesus from the Gospel of John:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:27)
Let us pray:
Gracious God, grant that we may find peace as we prepare for our Lord’s birth. May divisions in ourselves and in our families be peacefully resolved. May there be peace in our cities and in the countries of our world. Help us see the paths of peace in our lives, and then give us courage to follow them. Lord, let us remember that you only are the giver of lasting peace and that you are always with us. Amen.
December 12 – Third Sunday of Advent – Rose Candle
We relight the first candles of the Advent wreath – the candle of HOPE and the candle of PEACE. Now we light the third candle of Advent. This is the candle of JOY. As the coming of Jesus, our Savior, draws nearer, our joy builds with our anticipation of his birth. From the Book of Isaiah we read the words of our Lord:
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. (Isaiah 65:18)
From the New Testament, the words of Paul to the people of the church at Galatia:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22-25)
Let us pray:
We joyfully praise you, O Lord, for the fulfillment of your promise of a Savior and what that means in our lives. Thank you for the gift of salvation through the birth of your Son, Jesus. Create us anew as we wait, and help us see your glory as you fill our lives with your living Spirit. Amen.
December 19 – Fourth Sunday of Advent – Purple Candle
Today we see the first three candles of the Advent Wreath will be lit — the candles of HOPE, PEACE and JOY. Now we light the fourth candle of Advent. This is the candle of LOVE. Jesus demonstrated self-giving love in his ministry as the Good Shepherd. Advent is a time for kindness, thinking of others, and sharing with others. It is a time to love as God loved us by giving us his most precious gift. As God is love, let us be love also. In the Book of Deuteronomy we find these words:
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:17-19a)
From the Gospel of John we hear these words from our Lord:
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)
Let us pray:
Teach us to love, O Lord. May we always remember to put you first as we follow Christ’s footsteps, that we may know your love and show it in our lives. As we prepare for our celebration of Jesus’ birth, also fill our hearts with love for the world, that all may know your love and the one whom you have sent, your Son, our Savior. Amen.
Note: If you will not be having a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service, you can adapt this reading for the end of the service on the 19th.
Christmas Eve (or beginning of service on Christmas Day) – White Candle
As we begin our Christmas celebration, celebrating Jesus’ birth, we light the final candle of the Advent wreath. First, we lit the candle for Hope because Jesus is our hope. Second, we lit the candle for Peace because Jesus is our hope and peace. Third, we lit the candle for Joy because Jesus brings joy and fourth, the candle for Love because Jesus is love. Today we light the center candle. This is the Christ candle. Jesus is born. Jesus has come. Jesus is our salvation.
Here is a reading from Galatians:
“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law” (Galatians 4.4)
Let us pray:
Great God of love and light, we thank you now for the light of that special star over two thousand years ago that guided humble shepherds and learned wise men to the holy babe. Lead us now, by the light of your love, that we also may follow you to new life in him. In celebration of the birth of our King and our Savior, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
One thought on “Advent Symbols and Readings”
A helpful outline for this wonderful liturgical tradition. Thanks much.