Advent marks the beginning of the Christian year. It is the four weeks before Christmas
beginning on November 30 or the nearest Sunday to it. This is the Church's New Year's Day.
The word Advent comes from the Latin 'adventus' which means 'arrival' or 'coming'. This time
for Christians is a season of hope and the period of preparation for celebration of the birth
of Jesus. They also look forward to the time that Jesus will come again.
The clergy usually wear purple or royal blue vestments in their churches during Advent. This
is a picture of a Church of England vicar in his vestments for the second Sunday of Advent service.
During Advent there are no flowers decorating the church, but it is customary to have an Advent
Crown also known as an Advent Wreath. These are made from a circle of evergreen plants such as
holly and ivy. This symbolises God with no beginning or end. The evergreen is a reminder that
God does not change. The holly is also a symbol of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore when he
was crucified. Four candles are fixed round the circle and another is placed in the middle.
Various colours of candles have been used such as three purple and a pink with one white in the
middle. The unlit candles represent darkness. One purple candle is lit on the first Sunday of
Advent. On the second Sunday it is lit again together with another purple one, the third purple
one is lit on the third Sunday and on the fourth Sunday the pink candle is included. On Christmas
Day the white candle is also lit representing Jesus Christ as the light of the world. A recent
idea is to use four red candles and one white, red being a colour associated with Christmas.
The candles act as reminders to Christians:
The first candle is the candle of 'Hope', so prayers on this day focus on hope. This candle
represents the 'Patriarchs' such as Abraham and David.
The second candle is a symbol of God's 'Peace'. This candle reminds Christians of the
Prophets who foretold that the Messiah would be born.
The third candle represents 'Love' and stands for John the Baptist who baptised Jesus.
The fourth candle symbolises 'Joy' and when this candle is lit Christians remember Mary
the mother of Jesus who was joyful when the angel Gabriel told her she was to have a special baby.
The fifth candle reminds Christians of the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day.