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RE:QUEST

A space for resources to help RE teachers and their students explore the Christian faith

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Christmas: Advent

What makes advent a special time for Christians?

What is advent?

You might know the word 'advent' already. Many people have advent calendars in the weeks before Christmas, opening a door every day for 24 days and finding tasty chocolate behind each one!

But what does 'advent' mean?

It is the name of the special time before Christmas. It begins four Sundays before Christmas Day and ends on Christmas Eve.

'Advent' means 'coming'.

During Advent, Christians get ready for Christmas when they think about Jesus coming to earth as a baby.

What symbols do you find in churches during advent?

Many churches and some schools have an Advent Wreath. The round garland is a symbol of God, without beginning or end. There are four candles on the outside of the wreath with a fifth one in the centre. The four candles can be blue or red, and the centre one is white or gold.

In some places, there are three purple candles and one pink on the outside, with a white one in the middle. The first candle is lit on the first Sunday in advent and then a new one is lit every Sunday leading up to Christmas. The middle candle is lit on Christmas Day. It is a symbol of Jesus, the Light of the World.

What do the candles on the Advent Wreath mean?

There are different beliefs around the meaning of the candles. However, a lot of Christians think of each of the four candles as representing special people from the Bible who looked forward to Jesus' coming:

  • The first purple candle stands for God’s people. This is the candle of hope.
  • The second candle reminds people of the Old Testament prophets who looked forward to the birth of the Messiah, who God would send to save His people. This is the candle of peace.
  • The third candle is a symbol of John the Baptist, a prophet from Jesus' time who told people that God was coming soon. It is known as the candle of love.
  • The fourth candle reminds Christians of Mary, the mother of Jesus. This candle represents joy.
Learning from... Advent Think of a special occasion or event in your life. How did you feel as you were waiting for it? Did you need to do anything to get ready for it? Sometimes we can find waiting really difficult - especially when we've been looking forward to something for a long time! Can waiting make things more special? How? What is the 'up-side' to waiting?