Welcome to an Introduction to Advent.  Jennifer shares with us the true reason we celebrate and the meaning behind the symbolism. This is one tradition military families can participate in no matter where they find themselves.

Advent wreath and candles

Introduction to Advent

by Jennifer Wake

“On The First day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…”

I know you are singing it. This song is part of Christmas tradition. As the Christmas season quickly approaches, my family is preparing for the advent season. What is the advent season? There are many traditions about Advent and while each denomination may have their own spin on some of the particulars, the meaning remains the same.

What is Advent?

Literally, Advent means “coming”. Not just waiting for the coming of the baby Jesus but a link between the incarnation, the resurrection, and the 2nd coming. It means coming or arrival, the focus is on Christ’s birth AND His coming again. Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation, as they affirm Christ has come, He is present in the world today, and He will come again in power.

When is Advent?

Advent is the four Sundays before Christmas AND the week between Christmas and New Year. It should be celebrated for 40 days…just like Lent. We prepare for Christ to come again as well as remember the blessed arrival of His birth.

Advent is marked by a spirit of hope, faith, joy, and love.

It is filled with anticipation and longing for Christ’s return. Historically, it was a time of reflection and of fasting. During the first two weeks, people would fast and repent, then break the fast with the lighting of the Joy candle.  

My family uses a traditional advent wreath to remind us of His coming. If you want to build your own advent wreath you will need a wreath of evergreens, purple ribbon, three purple candles, one pink candle, and a larger white candle.  The four colored candles are placed evenly around the wreath with the white candle in the center of the wreath. Each of these items reminds us of parts of the tradition of advent.

The Wreath is a circle which reminds us of eternal life.

It reminds us of God himself. His eternity and ENDLESS mercy, which has no beginning or end. Just as the wreath has no beginning or end, God’s love for us has no beginning or end. This is why we exchange marriage rings to show endless love during a wedding ceremony.


The evergreens speak of the hope we have in God–the hope of newness and eternal life.

Evergreens remain green when the rest of the forest is brown or covered in snow. It reminds us of God’s never-changing love for us. Some churches allow these evergreen boughs to hang after Christmas and dry out. Without the life-giving tree, these boughs dry out and wither. The needles fall and the intertwined branches remind us of the crown of thorns Jesus wore on the cross at Easter. 


Purple ribbons are often added in preparation of the Lord’s Coming and His royalty.

The ribbons can be used to remind us of the gifts of the Magi to Jesus. Purple is the color of royalty and reminds us of his Kingdom.


The Candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through the birth of his Son.

Candles are usually violet/purple which stands for penance and longing. The one rose/pink candle symbolizes change and joy. They can speak of expectancy and provide a quiet prelude to Christmas’ dramatic brightness. Candles are living flames, which are symbolic of Christ.  

We start across from the rose candle and go counterclockwise. Why Counterclockwise? Because it goes opposite to the way the people used to dance around the fire on the winter solstice and separates us from pagan rituals.

Over the next four weeks, I will share with you a short devotion and several Christmas carols you can sing to remind you of the meaning of each week. During the week we will share Scriptures related to the meaning of each Sunday’s candle.

Now that you’ve have an introduction to Advent, you can find more about the Prophecy Candle of hope here.

Does your military family have any special traditions during the Christmas season?