Preparing an Advent Wreath

Many congregations and families have been introduced to the Advent wreath custom with Bible reading, singing, and prayer. On each successive Sunday in Advent, a candle is lit. Several aspects of this observance seem especially useful:

1. For families, it can be daily. When an activity is daily, it becomes part of the fabric of life. It makes a statement about what we value and will make time to do. Repeated, it helps us to know and remember who we are.

2. It's a concrete activity which involves the senses. The wreath may be at the center of the family table and the candles are lit and snuffed. These objects can be a reminder to do what has been planned.

3. The experience is simple and brief.

To make an Advent wreath, you will need:

Evergreen branches (balsam fir keeps its color and doesn't drop)
A round wire or Styrofoam ring for a base
Thin wire
Pruning shears
Four purple (or blue) candles (may substitute a pink candle for one of the purple or blue candles)
One large white candle and candle holder
Purple or blue ribbon

Gather the evergreen branches and cut them into short lengths (about 8 inches). Use thin wire to fasten the branches to the ring base by wrapping the wire around the branches and the base. It helps to lay all the branches in the same direction and lay each new bunch of branches on top of the ends of the previous bunch. The purple candles can be placed in the wreath, around the outside of the wreath, or on the inside of the wreath. The white candle is placed in the center of the wreath. Decorate the wreath or the candles with bows of purple or blue ribbon.

The Advent wreath's circular shape symbolizes God's constant and unchanging nature. The evergreen branches symbolize Christ's everlasting life. The four purple (or blue) candles mark the four weeks or Sundays in Advent. Each week a new candle is lit until all are burning the last week. This symbolizes the increasing crescendo of light as we approach the celebration of Jesus' birth. Also, as the Sundays go by, we see some candles shorter than others and we are able to get a visual idea of counting time and waiting. The white candle in the center of the wreath is the Christ candle. It is white to represent purity, and it is lit with the other four candles on Christmas Day to remind us that Christ has come as the light of the world.

In many families, members take turns lighting the candle(s). They sing an Advent song, read from the Bible, and pray.

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