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Sixty-First Avenue United Methodist Church in Nashville, TN. has 80 members who reach out to the community in a variety of ways. Worshippers join hands during this 2011 Advent service. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS

Photo by Kathleen S.Barry

Sixty-First Avenue United Methodist Church in Nashville, TN. has 80 members who reach out to the community in a variety of ways. Worshippers join hands during this 2011 Advent service. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS

What do the candles in our Advent wreath mean?

The Advent wreath, four candles on a wreath of evergreen, is shaped in a perfect circle to symbolize the eternity of God. In some churches, four purple candles, one for each week in Advent, are used with one larger white candle in the middle as the Christ candle. Other churches prefer three purple or blue candles with one candle being rose or pink, to represent joy.

While the Advent wreath with its four candles did bring light to churches, it was not to illuminate the interior as much as to symbolize the coming of Christ. The Advent wreath began in the time of the Protestant reformer Martin Luther.

During each Sunday of the Advent season, we focus on one of the four virtues Jesus brings us: Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. Others consider the lighting of the first candle to symbolize expectation, while the second symbolizes hope, the third joy and the fourth purity. The Christ candle is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day reminding Christians that Jesus is the light of the world. The order and exact wording vary among churches, but the wreath continually reminds us of whom we are called to be as followers of Jesus.