Happy New Year!
January first may still be weeks away, but the Church Year follows its own timetable, one not determined by nature or calendars, but by the rhythms of Jesus’ life. For that reason, the Church Year begins with the first Sunday of Advent. The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” It is the season that Christians prepare for the birth of Christ at Christmas, which is the First Advent. It is also the time for anticipation of the Second Advent, Christ’s triumphant return at the end of history. Thus, Advent is a season of expectation and preparation. That is why purple (the color of royalty) is the color of Advent.
One of the chief symbols by which we mark the time of Advent is through the symbolism of the Advent wreath. The circular wreath reminds us of God’s love and mercy, which have neither beginning nor end. The evergreen of the wreath symbolizes the gift of everlasting life. The four Advent candles stand for the four centuries of waiting between the writing of Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, and the birth of Christ. The lighting of the candles on the four Sundays of Advent represents the coming of the light of Christ into the world.
The candles themselves are associated with the Advent themes of hope, peace, joy, and love. The purple color of three of the candles points to the royal destiny of the child to be born of Mary. The single rose colored candle, the candle of Joy, is usually lit on the third Sunday of Advent. The solitary white candle in the center of the wreath is the Christ candle, reminding us that the Incarnation is the heart of Advent and Christmas. Therefore, the Christ candle is only lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
So, even though it is not yet even Christmas, it is not too early for the people of God to begin celebrating a new year of life in Christ!
Wishing all a holy Advent season and a blessed Christmas,
Happy New Year!