There are many traditions surrounding the Advent Wreath.  Regardless of your past experience with Advent (or lack of experience for most of my Baptist brethren), there is much to consider in the symbols and scripture readings during this time.  The two primary traditions concerning the naming of the candles are:

1.      Prophecy
2.      Bethlehem
3.      Shepherd
4.       Angel



1.      Hope
2.      Peace
3.      Joy
4.       Love

The first set of meanings tend to focus on the story of the Messiah’s birth.  The second set tends to focus on what is accomplished in the coming of the Messiah.  Obviously they are intertwined and there is no way to separate them, but this year we will be digging into the second.  In the traditional readings for the lighting of the “Hope” candle we find this passage:

And again, Isaiah says, ‘The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.’  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” ~ Romans 15:12-13

On the first Sunday of Advent, we light the Prophecy candle also known as the candle of Hope.  Though humanity strayed far from God, God never strayed from humanity.  From the beginning He had a plan and a path prepared for our return to Him.

On this Sunday, we re-ignite our Hope.  Hope for light in our darkness.  Hope for healing in sickness.  Hope for joy in our sadness.  Hope for order in our chaos.  Hope for inclusion in our loneliness.  Hope for help in our helplessness.  Hope for love in our unlovelyness.  Hope for forgiveness in our sin.  Hope for freedom in our captivity.  Hope for salvation!

God has always been for us.

And that is a very encouraging thought.

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