Advent, a time in the liturgical year in which Christians prepare for the celebration that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, begins on Sunday, November 29. The word Advent comes from the Latin phrase “Adventus Domini,” meaning arrival of the Lord. It begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve.
One of the primary traditions of Advent is the lighting of the Advent wreath. Each candle lit represents an aspect of the spiritual preparation for the coming of Jesus. The circle of branches of the wreath symbolize the eternal cycle of the seasons while the evergreens and lighted candles signify the persistence of life in the midst of winter.
The four candles traditionally represent hope, peace, joy and love. Often, the first, second, and fourth candles are purple; the third candle is rose-colored. Occasionally, a fifth white candle is placed in the middle and is lit on Christmas Eve (or Christmas Day) to celebrate Jesus’ birth.
Of the four canonical gospels, only two offer narratives regarding the birth of Jesus: Matthew (Matthew 1:18-25, plus a genealogy of Joseph at Matthew 1:1-17) and Luke (Luke 2:1-7, plus a genealogy of Joseph at Luke 3:21-38). Of these two, only Luke offers the details of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.