Which Advent Candle Is Lit First?

The holidays can often be a season of to-do lists, shopping trips, and nonstop gatherings. In the hustle and bustle, it’s easy to forget that the word holiday derives from “holy days.” The time for holy celebration becomes a time of stress, exhaustion, and empty wallets. When it comes to Advent, there is joy and light to experience. Each week, we light a candle on our Advent wreaths as we prepare our hearts for Christ’s coming. So which candle is lit first and why do we light them? Here’s everything you need to know about the Advent season.

What is Advent?

Advent in its Latin origin means “coming” or “arrival.” As Christians, we celebrate the four weeks leading up to Christ’s arrival on Christmas morning. During this season, liturgical churches celebrate long set traditions of sacred songs, scripture readings, and candle lighting. In doing so, we prepare our hearts and make room to receive Jesus.

This term “advent” is not simply referring to the birth of Jesus as an innocent baby, but also the celebration of the second coming of Christ. When Jesus returns, it will not be as a humble child but as a conquering King. While most share stories of rags to riches, God sent his son from riches to rags and became one of us; Christ’s presence is the greatest present.

What is an Advent Wreath?

The concept of the wreath and candles for Advent began in the 1600s in Lutheran Germany. In the years following, Advent wreaths became a staple of liturgical celebration in several denominations of the Christian faith. It’s typically a circular wreath symbolizing the unending nature of God’s love. Wreaths are traditionally made of evergreen branches, a sign that Jesus is everlasting life just as the evergreen tree does not die in the cold of winter.

Each candle represents the story of Jesus’ entrance into the world from the prophecy of his coming to the ultimate birth of the Messiah. On Sundays in December, families and church communities come together to light these candles, one added per week, to commemorate the greatest story ever told.

Which Candle is Which?

The first candle of the Advent season is lit on the first Sunday of December and is known as the prophet’s candle. Prophets foretold of a Messiah who would deliver them. This purple candle represents the hope of the Hebrew people for the coming of Jesus. The second candle, also purple, is for faith. This is the Bethlehem candle, the birthplace of King David, for the town in which the Messiah was destined to be born. In the third week of Advent, the pink candle, or the shepherd’s candle, is lit. The rose color is a liturgical symbol of joy. When the angels declared to the humble shepherds that the Christ child was born, there was great joy in their hearts. The final purple candle is the angel’s candle of peace. God sent His son to bring peace to earth and reconcile us to one another and God. The last candle is the center white candle, Christ’s candle of light. This candle is lit on Christmas day as the light of Jesus dispelling the darkness of the world.

In your next Advent season, take time to be still, to declutter the chaos of the modern holidays, and to remember the joy of Jesus’ coming. Spending time with your loved ones to light the Advent candles and read the story of Jesus refreshes the reason for the season. We have become enamored as modern consumers to show our love by giving material things when God’s true meaning of Christmas was to give Himself.