Have you ever wondered why Advent candles are purple and pink, un-seasonlike colors, instead of the red and green of Christmas? Or even the blue and silver of Hanukkah? I have. And that curiosity drove me to look further.
Here’s what I found:
Advent, which began this year on the first day of December, includes the four Sundays before Christmas Day, when it culminates. The word means “coming” or “arrival.” It’s the time for us to be still, waiting before the Lord. We silently ponder the significance in our own lives of God becoming man, as we reflect on what it was like for the world as it waited for the coming of the Christ Child.
“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” Micah 7:7
Waiting doesn’t mean passiveness. Waiting on God (the name of this blog!) is different from my impatient staring at the clock towards the end of each work day. It should be active, with eagerness and excitement.
I remember waiting in the dismal Bucharest airport for my first visitor during the days I lived there. My mother was coming, and it’d been a long time since I’d seen anyone from home. I sat on edge outside the arrivals area. Everytime the door opened, I jumped up, anticipating her arrival. Finally, she walked through the door!
For Advent, five candles are displayed in an evergreen wreath, representing the never-ending presence and mercy of God. The most common configuration includes a white candle in the center surrounded by three purple/blue ones and one pink one. The light provided by the candles reminds us that Jesus brought light into the darkness.
So what do the candles signify? I found oodles of lists, all different. Some say Hope, Love, Joy, Peace. Others list the Biblical patriarchs, the prophets, the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist. Another idea is Bethlehem, shepherds, angels, magi. Or Prophecy, Anunciation, Proclamation, Fulfillment. The meanings I chose to write about the next few weeks are Hope, Preparation, Joy, Love, Light.
Here’s the part that has always been a mystery to me. Why those colors?
Purple, the traditional color of royalty, symbolizes the Prince of Peace. Blue indicates hope and waiting. (Why not combine the two colors into an indigo or blue-violet hue?)
The pink or rose-colored candle represents joy, and is lit on the third Sunday (not the fourth one, as I would have guessed). In medieval times, tradition dictated that the pope give someone a rose during Lent to remind them to rejoice. This custom became incorporated into Advent, also a solemn period.
White is the color of purity. With its central position in the wreath, the white candle stands for the spotless Lamb of God and is lit on the day of His birth.
During Advent, we wait for the Prince of Peace, the Joy of the World, and the Lamb of God. We wait for Jesus!