I was in college when I first remember a church celebrating Advent during the Christmas season. Even then, I didn’t fully grasp the meaning of the candles and the wreath or even Advent itself.
Over the past few years, more and more Baptist churches seem to be setting time aside on the four Sundays before Christmas to use an Advent wreath as they mark the arrival of Jesus.
The word advent is rooted in the Latin word for “coming.” The observance is a way for Christians to celebrate and, even more, long for the coming of Jesus. Today our longing is not only for the babe in a manger, but the return of the King of Heaven as the angels promised in Acts 1:11.
The Advent wreath is typically made from greenery. It is to be a reminder of the seasons of the year and the way our lives flow through them. No matter where we find ourselves through the year, the Christian’s heart should long for Christ. The wreath also reminds me of my wedding ring, which is a reminder of a promise that should never end. Jesus promised He would never forsake His people. The wreath reminds us He is always with us.
The four candles around the wreath represent hope, faith, joy and peace. Sometimes there is a candle in the center of the wreath that represents light. The four outer candles are lit on the Sundays before Christmas Day and the final candle is to be lit on Christmas Day (or on the Sunday nearest Christmas Day).
The Christmas season is important for many reasons. Most of all, it is a special time for us to remember how God made a way for people to know him through Jesus. The fellowship God desired in the Garden of Eden can only be restored through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The separation brought on by sin was overcome by Christ through his life of perfection, substitutionary death and powerful resurrection. To be restored to relationship with our Creator is what we long for.
This is the hope of Christmas.
BRANDON PORTER is the communications director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.