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History of the Advent Wreath

Saturday, November 24th, 2018

Advent is the season when Christians make spiritual preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas.  Celebrating with an Advent wreath is a meaningful custom in many Christian traditions.  On that wreath, four or five candles are typically arranged.  During the season of Advent, one candle on the wreath is lit each Sunday as a part of the Advent services.  The lighting of an Advent wreath is a custom that began in 16th-century Germany among Lutherans and Catholics.  In Western Christianity, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, or the Sunday, which falls closest to November 30, and lasts through Christmas Eve, or December 24.  Set on the branches of the Advent wreath are four candles: three purple candles and one pink candle.  A more modern tradition is to place a white candle in the center of the wreath.  As a whole, these candles represent the coming of the light of Christ into the world.

Symbolism of the Advent Wreath Candles

Advent Wreath

Is a circular garland of evergreen branches representing “Eternity”.

Prophecy Candle

On the first Sunday of Advent, the first purple candle is lit.  This candle typically represents “HOPE” Some traditions call this the “Prophecy Candle,” in remembrance of the prophets, primarily Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ: therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

Bethlehem Candle

On the second Sunday of Advent, the second purple candle is lit.  This candle typically represents “LOVE”.  Some traditions call this the “Bethlehem Candle,” symbolizing Christ’s manger: This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:12)

Shepherds Candle

On the third Sunday of Advent, the pink, or rose-colored candle is lit.  This candle typically represents “JOY”.  Some traditions call this the “Shepherds Candle”: and there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:8–11)

Angels Candle

The fourth Sunday of Advent the last purple candle is lit.  This candle typically represents “PEACE”.  Some traditions call this the “Angels Candle”: and suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13–14)

Christ Candle

On Christmas Eve, the white center candle is lit.  This candle is called the “Christ Candle” and represents the life of Christ that has come into the world. The color white represents purity.  Christ is the sinless, spotless, pure Savior.  Those who receive Christ as Savior are washed of their sins and made whiter than snow: “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)


Salt and Light?

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

Jesus said that we are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world”. Being salt and light is not optional.  Jesus did not say you can be…or you have the potential to be…He said you are.  Everyone who has trusted Christ for salvation and is born again is the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Salt

The value of salt, especially in the ancient world cannot be under estimated. Roman soldiers received their wages in salt.  The Greeks considered salt to be divine. The Mosaic Law required that all offerings presented by the Israelites contain salt.  When Jesus told his disciples that they were “the salt of the earth”, as recorded in Matthew 5:13, they understood the metaphor. While the universal importance of salt is not as readily apparent in our modern world, the mandate that Jesus gave to his first disciples is still relevant and applicable to His followers today.

What are the characteristics of salt that caused the Lord to use it in this context?  Some think that its whiteness represents the purity of the justified believer. Others say that salt’s flavoring properties imply that Christians are to add divine flavor to the world.  Still others believe that Christians are to sting the world with rebuke and judgment the way salt stings an open wound. Another group asserts that, as salt, Christians are to create a thirst for Christ.   Salt, however, has another vital purpose which is probably what the Lord had in mind-it stops decay. When Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth”, He meant that all of His disciples were to serve as preservatives, stopping the moral decay in our sin infected world.

Those first disciples would have been intimately familiar with this function of salt. Without refrigeration, the fish that they caught would quickly spoil and rot unless they were packed in salt. Once salted, the fish could be safely stored and then used when needed. The spiritual health and strength of the Christian is to counteract the corruption that is in the world. Christians, as salt, are to inhibit sin’s power to destroy lives. This in turn creates opportunity for the gospel to be proclaimed and received.

We have been given a wonderful privilege to be the salt of the earth, but Jesus gave us a warning. The second half of Matthew 5:13 states: “But if salt loses its taste, how would its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trodden underfoot by men”. Jesus did not say that we can lose our salvation; He said that we can lose our saltiness. When salt is contaminated it becomes corrosive and poisonous. Contaminated salt cannot even be used for fertilizer on the field, so it has to be thrown on the road. If we have allowed disobedience, carelessness and indifference to rule our lives, we have become contaminated salt and have lost our saltiness. We need to confess our sin and let the Lord restore us to the purpose for which we were called.

Light

In Matthew 5:14, Jesus tells His disciples, “You are the light of the world”. As “salt”, the Christian is to counteract the power of sin. As “light” we are to illuminate or make visible. Our lives are to be an on-going witness to the reality of Christ’s presence in our lives. When we worship God with pure hearts, when we love others as ourselves, and when we do good without growing weary, we are lights shining. It is important, however to know that it is not our light, but the reflection of the Light of the world, Jesus Christ Himself, that people will see in us.

The apostle Paul ssated, “Believers, you are to shine as light in the world”. The Greek word used here is very similar to the word for the beacon that a lighthouse emits. That beacon is bright and unmistakable in its purpose. It warns of danger. It directs to safe harbor. It provides hope for those who have lost hope. Everyday we are surrounded by people groping around in the darkness, separated from the God who loves them. God uses His children, like beacons from a lighthouse, to show the way to Him.

Either we are “salt” and “light” by the grace of God, or we are willfully disobeying the One who saved us for such a time as this. If we are being “salt” and “light” then we can expect fruit from our faithfulness. If we are not being salt and light, then the New Year is a perfect time to repent and let God have your best for His glory. This is our commission and in His strength we will experience this reality.