Symbolism of the Advent Wreath
Advent Wreaths commonly find their way into our homes this time of year, yet the symbolism of the wreath goes largely unnoticed by many of us. The Wreath is a lovely picture of the Gospel and a daily reminder of the Incarnation and Passion of Christ.
Circles are often used to symbolize eternality, and the same idea is at play with the wreath. We are invited to remember that God’s love for us has neither beginning nor end, and a life with him lasts forever. The use of evergreen is intended to symbolize the same.
Surprisingly, the wreath highlights more about the Execution and Resurrection of Christ than it does the Incarnation. We include elements of red (typically cranberries or poinsettia leaves) to symbolize the blood that was shed on the cross. Further, pine cones are often included to remind us of the words of Jesus in John 12 when he speaks of a seed falling into the ground and dying for the sake of new life. And lastly, the pine needles remind us of the crown of thorns worn by Jesus.
The candles we use during the season get progressively brighter as the seasons goes, starting first with black, then gold, next silver and ending with ivory. This reminds us that the light is overcoming the darkness, and the darkness will not have victory over the light. The first candle (black) is the Prophets’ Candle and reminds us of the Messiah foretold long ago. The second candle (gold) is the Bethlehem candle and it is a symbol of the preparations being made to receive and cradle the Christ child, and a reminder that Jesus moved into the neighborhood. The third candle (silver) is the Angel’s candle, and hearkens back to the joyous announcement that Jesus has been born and is intended to stir up hearts of celebration. The final candle, the Shepherds candle (ivory), is an invitation to adore the newborn king. At the center of our wreath is the white candle, the Christ candle. It is lit on Christmas Eve and is the culmination of our Advent Celebration: The Christ has come, Emmanuel, God with us. Though our Wreaths are put away after Advent, we leave this candle out in our homes through the season of Lent. We extinguish this candle on Good Friday and relight it come Easter.