Every year when Christmas rolls around, I feel the excitement pulsing through the air. The twinkling lights, the smells of fresh greenery adorning our mantles, the bustle of shoppers eager to fill their stockings, the sounds of familiar carols and the chill of the air holding the potential of the long-awaited snow. This season holds so much hope and joy that we can often forget the source of those attributes. That is why I love the Christian tradition of Advent. It re-centers our focus around our Savior.
For those of you who already celebrate Advent, I hope this will give you fresh ideas and a renewed perspective of the meaning of the tradition. And, for those of you who have never observed Advent, I hope you will be moved to incorporate this holy reminder of our Savior into your Christmas traditions.
The word advent means "coming." It is a season in which we are invited to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of Christ - a time to remember the first Christmas when Jesus entered our world as a baby in Bethlehem, and a time to look forward to the promise of His second coming when He will once again dwell with and walk among His chosen people.
In modern traditions of Advent, we light a candle each week leading up to Christmas. Each candle represents a different virtue of Christ and of Christmas and is typically a different color. I'll go over each and then present some ideas of how you can make the Advent tradition your own, fit just for your family.
The first candle of Advent symbolizes hope. Oftentimes it is referred to as the Prophecy candle in honor and remembrance of the prophets who told of the birth of Christ (especially the prophet Isaiah). It represents the hope we have in Christ and fills us with anticipation of His second coming. This candle, traditionally, is purple because violet is the liturgical color of prayer, penance and sacrifice.
The second candle symbolizes love and is often referred to as the Bethlehem candle. It is meant to be a reminder of Mary and Joseph's voyage to Bethlehem where our Savior was born. This candle is also purple.
The third candle of Advent symbolizes joy and is called the Shepherd's candle. Traditionally, it is a pink candle because rose is the liturgical color for joy. It is meant for us to recall and experience the joy we receive in Christ and the joy the shepherd's felt when they came to worship the Messiah in the manger.
The fourth candle of Advent symbolizes peace and is also called the Angel's candle. It is a reminder to us of the angel's message on that first Christmas of "Peace of earth and goodwill toward men." (Luke 2:14) It is also purple to mark the final week of prayer as we wait for Christmas.
The final candle represents Jesus our Messiah and is called the Christ candle. Traditionally it is a white candle placed in the center of the advent wreath, symbolizing the purity of Christ who is our perfect, spotless Lamb.
Every family is different and therefore, I feel it is imperative that you make Advent fit your family needs and traditions, while still retaining the message and anticipation of the coming of Christ. In our family, we only recently adopted the tradition of Advent. It was not something with which I grew up, so we began to incorporate it into our traditions when our children were born. It has looked differently for us each year as the tradition continues to evolve to fit our family. We used to have a traditional Advent wreath, which is simply a round candle holder in which to place the 4 colored candles, with a space in the middle to add the Christ candle. Several years ago, however, I began my own candle-making business and started to create my own Advent candles. I have chosen to not retain the tradition of the purple and pink candles, but have opted instead for all white candles. If you prefer white candles, as well, you may consider tying a pink or purple ribbon around the candle or writing the words HOPE, FAITH, JOY and PEACE in pink or purple ink. Last year I created an Advent wreath on a rectangular wooden platter, but this year I am considering switching to a round wooden platter since circles represent completeness, which is what we find in Christ our Savior when we come to know Him.
Below you will find resources for creating your own Advent candles and ideas for Advent wreaths. When you are creating your Advent wreath, no matter what style or colors you choose, do so in holy reverence and with an attitude of pointing your life back to Him, remembering that, at its core, Advent is a simple reminder that quiets our souls and prepares our hearts for joy of Christmas.
Written by: Liv Alliston
Pinterest Board for Advent Wreath Ideas: https://www.pinterest.com/Livfree119/advent-wreath-ideas/
How to Make Your Own Advent Candles:
You will need -
- 5 candles jars or containers of any kind that can hold hot liquid
- Candle wax
- Candle wick with wick clip/holder
- Double boiler (make sure it's a pot you don't mind getting wax in)
- Fragrance (artificial or essential oils)
- Spoon for stirring
- Scale to measure the amount of candle wax
- Electric stovetop or electric burner (WARNING: You cannot use gas stovetops because wax is flammable!)
- Wick stabilizer (this is optional for wooden wicks, but necessary for cotton wicks)
1) You can either purchase a candle jar or use any smallish container you find beautiful. I utilized 4 old juice glasses for the candles representing hope, faith, joy and peace; and I bought a larger candle jar for the Christ candle. Begin by measuring the vessels to see how many fluid ounces your vessel will hold. Unless I know the exact ounces, I measure this by filling the vessel with water from a measuring cup to determine how many ounces the vessel will hold.
2) Clean your candle vessels and place a candle wick in a wick clip/holder in the center of your vessel. I prefer to use wooden wicks since they are lead-free and also offer that beautiful crackling sound. If you are using a cotton or hemp wick, you will need to have some sort of wick stabilizer to hold the wick in place.
3) Now it's time to measure the candle wax. I prefer to use natural, organic candle wax like coconut wax. Beeswax is a great natural wax but is more difficult to work with, especially for first-timers. Paraffin wax is the most common and the cheapest wax option. It is also readily available as most craft and candle stores. I have a kitchen scale that allows me to tare the weight so as not to include the weight of the pot in which I will melt the wax. I start by placing a chunk of wax in the container in which I will use to melt it. I add or take away wax until I have the exact amount of wax needed to fill the vessel.
4) Next, you melt the wax. You will need either an electric stovetop or an electric burner to melt the wax since it is flammable and cannot be done on a gas stovetop. I have a pouring pot that I use to put the wax in and then I place it in a pot of water to create a double-boiler.
5) Allow the wax to melt completely (no lumps). The wax you purchase will have a melting temperature on the label. Use your thermometer to verify the temperature.
6) Once you reach the required temperature, you can add your fragrance. This is my favorite part of the process because you can create your own concoction of beautiful smells. I usually opt for the scents of Christmas like pine, cinnamon, peppermint, clove, nutmeg, rosemary, orange or grapefruit. You can combine several fragrances to make a blend or just add your favorite single fragrance. I always prefer 100% pure-grade essential oils for their therapeutic and health benefits. Most candles are super-fragranced, containing an 8-10% fragrance to wax ratio. I usually use a 2-3% fragrance to wax ratio so as to save some money and not overwhelm my nose.
7) Stir the fragrance into the wax completely (2-3 minutes). While I stir, I always pray over my candles and ask God to bless them and use them to calm us and focus our hearts and minds on Him.
8) Once the stirring is complete, you will remove the pot with the wax from the double boiler and begin to pour the melted wax into your candle vessel until the vessel is filled.
9) Make sure the wick is aligned in the center of the jar, as the wax begins to harden quickly.
10) Allow the candle to set, this can take around 24 hours.
11) After 24 hours, use scissors (or a wick cutter) to cut the wick to 1/4" in length. Clean up your candle jar if there are any wax dribbles.
12) Use gift tags with twine to wrap around and label your candle for each week of Advent. Enjoy!
Published on Tuesday, November 10, 2020 @ 7:06 AM CDT