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How do Christians prepare for Christmas?
The Christmas season begins four Sundays before Christmas Day with Advent. Advent means 'coming'. Christians prepare to celebrate Jesus' birth as a baby in the weeks that lead up to Christmas. They also remember that he will return as king and judge. Many Advent customs involve counting the days down until Christmas begins. There are many traditions surrounding the Advent Wreath. The wreath is usually a circular garland made up of evergreen branches. The garland is a symbol of the eternal nature of God – without beginning or end. On the wreath there are four candles with a fifth one in the centre.
The four candles can be blue or red, with the centre one being white or gold. In other traditions, there are three purple candles and one pink with the centre candle remaining white. The first candle is lit on Advent Sunday and then a new one is lit every Sunday leading up to Christmas. The centre candle is lit on Christmas day and is a symbol of Jesus – the Light of the World.
One tradition surrounding the meaning of the candles claims that the first purple candle represents God’s people. This is the candle of hope. The second candle reminds people of the Old Testament prophets who foretold the birth of the Messiah. This is the candle of peace. The third candle is a symbol of John the Baptist and is known as the candle of love. The fourth candle reminds us of Mary the mother of Jesus and that candle represents joy. Each of the four candles represents people who prepared for the coming of Jesus and therefore the lighting of the candles helps Christians to prepare themselves for the Christmas festival. It is also a time to prepare and look forward to the time when Jesus will one day return.