Advent two – The Candle of Peace! Advent is a season of expectation and preparation, as the Church prepares to celebrate the coming (adventus) of Christ in his incarnation, and also looks ahead to his final advent as judge at the end of time. The readings and liturgies not only direct us towards Christ’s birth, they also challenge the modern reluctance to confront the theme of divine judgement:
“Every eye shall now behold him robed in dreadful majesty.” (Charles Wesley)
There are several traditions about the meaning or theme of each candle. The Four Last Things – Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell – have been traditional themes for Advent meditation. The characteristic note of Advent is therefore expectation, rather than penitence, although the character of the season is easily coloured by an analogy with Lent. The anticipation of Christmas under commercial pressure has also made it harder to sustain the appropriate sense of alert watchfulness, but the fundamental Advent prayer remains ‘Maranatha’ – ‘Our Lord, come’ (1 Corinthians 16.22).
Church decorations are simple and spare, and purple is the traditional liturgical colour. In the northern hemisphere (which you are most familiar with), the Advent season falls at the darkest time of the year, and the natural symbols of darkness and light are powerfully at work throughout Advent and Christmas.
The lighting of candles on an Advent wreath was imported into Britain from northern Europe in the nineteenth century, and is now a common practice.
“When the Lord comes, he will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness, and will disclose the purposes of the heart.” (1 Corinthians 4.5)
(Church of England, Common Worship)