We may not all be celebrating in one place as a church community this Christmas, but we can continue to recognise the presence of Christ with us in our homes. This resource offers a few ways that we might mark the season together.
It would be too easy to start by pointing out all the ways this Christmas season might be different to others, but we probably don’t need that reminder! Instead, let us remember what is still the same in 2020; what is just as true now – through this season of Advent – as it has been since that first Christmas morning.
- Hope: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23
- Peace: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
- Love: “Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” Exodus 34:5-7
- Joy: “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11
The season of advent is meant to draw our attention to and build our anticipation for our Saviour’s coming at Christmas – it’s root is the Latin ‘adventus’, meaning the coming or the arrival.
Through Advent, we are invited to remember the joy experienced at the first coming of Christ, while also looking toward his return with hope. We invite you to join us in the practice of lighting the Advent candles each week as we anticipate the birth of Jesus.
Much of this has been adapted from ‘A Defiant Christmas’ by Church of the City New York – big thanks!
Isaiah 9 contains one of the Messianic prophecies given in the Old Testament about the coming of Christ, and it compares his arrival to a great light coming on the earth:
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned”
The continuous lighting of candles on the wreath throughout Advent signifies the increase of light pouring into the world as Christ’s arrival draws near. Lighting the candles one by one over the four weeks symbolizes the posture of anticipation we adopt in this season. The flame of each candle pushes back the darkness, and by Christmas Day, the fully illuminated wreath radiates a brightness to serve as a reminder that the Light of the World came to defeat darkness forever and dwell with his people.
Four candles sit around the ring of the wreath, each one pointing us to a different aspect of Advent.
The first candle, sometimes called the “Prophecy Candle,” symbolizes the hope for a saviour we see in the prophets of Israel, and begins the season with a spirit of anticipation for the coming Christ.
The second candle symbolizes the peace God promises to all mankind through the Messiah.
The third candle symbolizes the joy of the good news given to the shepherds in the fields by the heavenly hosts at Jesus’s birth.
The fourth and final candle in the circle of the wreath symbolizes love, and reminds us that the ultimate act of love was God sending his one and only Son into the world to eventually be the perfect sacrifice for our sins.
The centre candle is traditionally white and called the Christ Candle, lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to symbolize the arrival of Christ and his light in the world.
The traditional Advent wreath is arranged in a circle, with no beginning or end, to symbolize that God’s goodwill toward man, brought about by the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, will never cease. Christmas is the time of year when we get to celebrate the miracle of the Word of God becoming flesh through the birth of Christ. However, the circle of the wreath reminds us that this miracle came to pass because of God’s endless love and mercy for us.
The Advent wreath is typically made up of evergreen branches. The colour green alone symbolizes the hope of renewal and potential for new life, but the use of evergreens serves as an even sweeter reminder to us of the promise of eternal life we have access to through Jesus Christ the Messiah.
Advent gives us an opportunity to look back on the first coming of Christ, and also look forward with hope to the time when King Jesus will come back to rule and reign over his kingdom forever.
When the Son of Man first came to earth, Israel had been abused by their kings, enslaved by their enemies, and led astray by apathetic religious leaders for generations. They were longing for their promised Messiah King to rise up and lead them as God’s chosen people.
During Advent, we acknowledge that we are just like Israel—heavy with anticipation, and waiting for our promised King to come. However, we can also give thanks, trusting that because Jesus came before, he will come again. Advent reminds us to hope, so that as anticipation builds, our hearts can shake off the heaviness, and take on a posture of joyful expectancy for Christ’s glorious return. Lighting the candles one by one reminds us that though we are waiting, we are waiting with a hope that will one day light the whole world.
Inviting the neighbours
The Advent wreath symbolizes the light of Jesus coming into the world, but it is our call as believers to go and share that light with the people around us. After the shepherds were told by the heavenly hosts that the Saviour had come and they saw the baby for themselves, they ran to share the good news with anyone that would listen. Let’s be like the shepherds this Christmas, proclaiming the good news to all who will listen.
We encourage you to embrace a spirit of hospitality in a world that is holding each other at arm’s length, and invite friends and neighbours into some of your holiday activities. Could you drop off some mulled wine & mince pies as you invite them to the Celtic Carols livestream? Or perhaps you could share this advent wreath tradition and invite them to create one too?
Opening up these meaningful moments to people who normally would not take part in celebrating the true meaning of Christmas creates an opportunity for deeper connections and conversations about the hope, peace, love, and joy of Jesus.
There are so many different sizes and styles of Advent wreath, you’re sure to be able to find one that works for you! Here are just a few tutorials, but you’ll find lots more by searching ‘advent wreath’.
Each week, we’ll add to these pages – readings, prayers, songs, times to reflect on the themes we explore through this season of Advent.
Thurs 24 Dec or Fri 25 Dec
A great new resource from the Scottish Bible Society! Countdown to Christmas with ten days of discovery and creativity as you read the story of the very first Christmas in the Bible.
Another Scottish Bible Society resource, this magazine contains daily Bible readings throughout December as well as reflections and prayers. Use them individually or share with your neighbours over the Advent period. We’ll be ordering some as a church, so let us know if you’d like one!