Advent is the time of year where Christians all over the world prepare for the coming or arrival of Christ. This preparation is two-fold. First, preparation is made to remember the birth of Jesus on Christmas. Second, Christians are reminded to prepare for the second coming of Christ. The Advent season covers the four Sundays before Christmas, unless Christmas falls on a Sunday then Christmas is the fourth Sunday of Advent.
Many churches begin the Advent season with a hanging-of-the-greens service. During this service the church is decorated with evergreen boughs, wreaths, or trees that symbolize the new and everlasting life brought through Jesus Christ. Music, Scripture reading and explanations of the symbols being placed in the church are a part of the service.
An Advent wreath occupies a prominient position in the church. Many Christians put up Advent wreaths in their homes also. The Advent wreath has five candles, four around the wreath and one in the middle. The colors of these candles are tree purple or blue candles, one pink or rose candle, and one white candle. The circle of the wreath symbolizes God's eternity and endless mercy. The green in the wreath symbolizes the hop of renewal, newness, and eternal life that we have in God. The candles remind us that Jesus is the light of the world.
The candles are lit, one each Sunday, during the four Sundays of Advent. The first candle (purple) is known as the candle of Expectation of Hope (some churches call it the Prophesy candle). It represents the anticipation of the coming of the Messiah. The remaining three candles (Sundays) may follow one of the following progressions: Bethlehem (purple), Shepherds (rose), Angels (purple); Peace (purple), Joy (rose), Love (purple); or John the Baptist (purple), the Magi (rose), Mary (purple). Whatever sequence is used, the lighting of the candles is accompanied by Scripture readings, prayers, music, and worshipper participation.
The center, white, candle is called the Christ candle. It is usually lit on Christmas Eve or Day; but, since many churches don't have services on these days, they light it on the Sunday before Christmas.
Advent is a time for all people to remember that Jesus is the reason for the season.