I wonder if you’ve driven by the church this past week. Did you notice the large Advent wreath in the Memorial Garden? I think it’s beautiful. It was created by Doug and Diane Evans for our church. We get to put it in action tomorrow morning for the First Sunday of Advent. All the families lighting the Advent wreath this year are doing so in the Memorial Garden with this very large Advent wreath.
The traditional of lighting an Advent wreath is not as old as one might think. Although the origin of the first Advent wreath is unknown, Professor Haemig of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, points to Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808–1881), a Protestant pastor in Germany who worked among the poor. He used a wreath during advent with the children at the mission school in Hamburg. It seems the children were always asking when Christmas would arrive. So he created a wreath from an old cart wheel and put on it 20 small red and 4 large white candles. The red candles were lit Monday through Saturday. The white candles were lit on the four Sundays before Christmas.
The tradition took off in protestant families but shifted to just the four candles for the Sundays of Advent. At some point they changed to purple because Advent was considered a penitential season at the time, like Lent. In recent years the color has shifted to blue to distinguish Advent from Lent. Both blue and purple are royal colors which are appropriate for our Lord Jesus. The blue, however, reminds us of the night sky in which the star appeared and is the color of hope which is appropriate to the season of Advent. The white candle in the middle symbolizes Christ and is lit on Christmas Eve.
As we light the Advent wreath in worship tomorrow, I invite you to remind yourself that always and forever, our hope is in God who save us.
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