Families, bible study groups, home fellowships and churches can easily make advent a part of their corporate celebration of Christmas. The following is a template you can follow in order to adapt the meditations in this book for use in a group setting with an Advent Wreath.
Advent wreaths are a great way to build anticipation for your celebration of Christmas. They are very simple in their design—often made from the trimmings from a Christmas tree or evergreen clippings wound together as a wreath. Like a wedding ring, the circular shape of the wreath reminds us of the unending nature of God—that He has no beginning and no end.
The wreath is adorned with five candles—four around the perimeter and one in the middle. Three of the four perimeter candles are usually purple, the color associated with royalty to remind you of the Kingship of Christ. The other perimeter candle is usually pink, representing the joy of His coming.
The perimeter candles are lit on the Sundays leading up to Christmas as a way of counting down the weeks until Christmas Eve or Christmas Day when the center candle, the Christ candle, is lit. The Christ candle is white, representing Christ and His birth, and it is in the middle of the wreath to remind us that Christ is the center of all things. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given” to Him. (Mt 28:18)
Beyond these basic appointments, the wreath can be decorated in any way you wish. As the weeks go on, the light from the wreath glows brighter and brighter in intensity. This is a wonderfully appropriate aesthetic reminding us of three very important truths.
First, we are reminded that “the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (Jn 1:9)
Second, as the light intensifies and the darkness is pushed back, we are reminded of why Christ came—to overcome the darkness and power of sin in our lives. As Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12)
Third, we are reminded of the call Jesus gives His followers to be light in this world: “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. So also, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and praise your Father Who is in heaven.” (Mt 5:14-16) As the light of the wreath intensifies, we remember who Jesus is and what He has done, and we anticipate His purpose and intent to use our lives to bear witness to Him.
The four perimeter candles of the wreath are usually assigned particular themes which help unfold the story of Christmas. There is a lot of latitude in the themes you can assign to the candles because the Advent Wreath exists to serve the worshipper, not the other way around.
Russ Ramsey is the pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church Cool Springs in Nashville, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife and four children. He grew up in the fields of Indiana and studied at Taylor University and Covenant Theological Seminary (MDiv, ThM). Russ is the author of the Retelling the Story Series (IVP, 2018) and Struck: One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017).
We started this tradition just last year. Except that my wife hated the idea of 3 purple and one pink candle (huge color clash with our house decorations), so we ended up with all green for the outer candles.
What observing advent as a family helped us do, and will help us to do this year, is to teach us how to enter into the story to which we already belong. Some people deride Advent as a practice, because to them, it’s the time of year where we pretend Jesus hasn’t come yet. But that’s not it at all. We enter the story through Advent, and more importantly the Story enters us.
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