When I pull Advent candles out of their box, I run my fingers along their smooth surface and inhale their subtle scent.
A lighter snaps, and the wick gently accepts the flame.
It shudders to life.
One candle has the power to brighten the darkness, but is incredibly fragile on its own.
A single puff could blow it out.
In Matthew 12, Jesus quotes a prophecy from Isaiah 42:
“Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
In his name the nations will put their hope.”
A smoldering wick he will NOT snuff out.
December can be a painful time for many, but Jesus is gentle with our tender hearts. You might be dealing with the loss of a child or a parent, with grief over dreams shattered, or with numbness because the season is so overwhelming. But a smoldering wick he will NOT snuff out.
This is what the Advent wreath with its candles reminds us:
It reminds us that we are not alone, that hope is not all lost, and that even though pain and loss may steal our joy, there is a gentle God who brings hope in the waiting.
There is light in the darkness.
The Advent Wreath tradition
There is gentle beauty and strong hope in the weekly tradition of lighting the candles in an Advent wreath. Because the tradition is weekly (not daily), it’s fairly simple to incorporate into your month.
Originally a Lutheran tradition, the Advent wreath and candles have been brought into other denominations because of their simple beauty.
The candles in the wreath are lit once a week, usually on Sundays, starting four weekends before Christmas. The last candle is lit on Christmas Eve.
Each candle means something, and each has a Bible reading involved.
As we wait in anticipation for the coming of the Savior, we light an additional candle each week. This symbolism increases our sense of anticipation and expectation.
Just as “the people living in darkness have seen a great light” (Matthew 4:16), we await the lighting of the Christ-candle.
Advent candle lighting is perfect for children
Creating an advent candle tradition is a fantastic, hands-on way to start introducing children to one of the many abstract concepts in the Bible.
Your children may not fully understand the concept of Christ being light, but they will definitely understand the frustration of waiting for something to happen!
As they await the lighting of the final candle, the Christ-candle, they may ask to light all the candles at once. This is a fabulous way to explain to them that this is how God’s people felt: God didn’t speak to the Israelites for 400 years, and so they waited in spiritual darkness for their Saviour for a VERY long time! Fortunately, we won’t have to wait that long to light all our candles!
Lighting Advent Candles is also the perfect tradition for busy families at Christmas. It can bring peace and sanity back to your season in just 5-10 minutes once per week.
Tools for your Advent candle tradition:
1. You need 5 candles: 3 purple, 1 pink, and 1 white.
The type of candle is unimportant: taper or pillar or tea light, scented or unscented.
If you have trouble finding those colours, I would encourage you to use white candles with coloured candle holders. Or if you’d like to get your children involved, have them create simple holders out of play dough or painted baby food jars.
Place the candles in a circle with the white candle in the centre. You can also place them within a wreath, but you don’t need to get fancy with it. A simple circle is good enough.
2. You need Advent candle readings
You can source out your own or follow mine. (Click here to receive them!) The readings that I have written are very simple, and are appropriate for children ages 3 and up. I have thoroughly tested them on my own squirmy children!
There are several traditions that advent readings can follow. While the Hope / Peace / Joy / Love tradition is the one I’ve seen the most frequently, the one I have chosen to follow for my concrete-thinkers is Prophets / Angels / Shepherds / Magi.