Heralding The Christ Child . . . Honoring Advent In Your Home With a Homemade Advent Wreath
Growing up I always looked forward each week to the Advent ceremony at the beginning of church, my heart filling up with happiness, wonder and gratitude as the candles were lit and the readings were done. We always attended the morning services, and it was wonderful in the mornings, but there is something about the hush of the evening that appeals to me when lighting the candles and reading the verses that herald the birth of our Lord.
There isn’t any need to go out and spend a lot of money to make your own Advent Wreath, and it isn’t difficult to put it together once you have gathered your supplies. You may actually have quite a few of the things you need on hand already, or have someone you know who is disposing of some of their leftover extra Christmas decorations that you could use. I had the wonderful experience of going to Hobby Lobby for the first time and got about half of the greens, holly stems and berries, the candles and the floral foam for 50% off! My Mom was getting rid of a few things that she wasn’t going to use any more, and I picked up a few filler pieces from Wal-Mart. I estimate that my total cost was about $15.00 for everything.
You will need:
* Round floral foam in whatever size you choose
* Variety of greens, berries, pinecones, leaves, holly, etc. (be aware that if you use real greens, they WILL dry out – so keep a fire extinguisher handy.
* 4 red candles and 1 white pillar candle (tradition calls for 3 purple candles for royalty and one pink candle for the last week before Christmas Day – see explanation later – but many people go with red only)
* Knives, scissors, wire cutters
1. Lay out your supplies so you can see everything and have it within easy reach.
2. Mark on the floral foam where you are going to cut the holes for your taper candles. I marked mine with a permanent marker.
3. Cut the foam away from your marked areas and press your candle into the hole. Be sure not to make the hole too big or the candle will wiggle back and forth. It’s better to start out too small and have to make it slightly bigger, since it doesn’t work the other way around.
4. Place your red (or purple and pink) tapers into the holes you have cut in the foam.
5. Begin placing your greenery where you want it until the floral foam is all filled in. I could have used MORE greens, but this worked. I may pick up a few more pieces later, just because I like it full.
6. Set your white pillar candle in the middle of the wreath. Mine was too short, so I set it on a candle holder. It’s one of the reasons I want more greens, to cover the candle holder up so it isn’t seen above the greenery.
Set your wreath where it will be for the season, and enjoy celebrating the Advent of Our Lord!
Keep reading for the guide to the history and celebration of Advent:
Christmas has become so secular. The world is working so diligently to remove Christ from His own birthday celebration, that the true meaning is getting lost in the politically correct terminology (and anyone who knows me KNOWS how I feel about that!), the non-spiritual commercialistic celebrations of a “holiday” instead of a Holy Day. As a nation, and a world even, we have cut off the purpose of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. It is so important, for this very reason, for Christians to recapture the season of Advent as a time for preparing for Christmas.
Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming”. Avent begins the church year, starting four Sundays before Christmas. The season of Advent has been set aside as a time of preparation for Christmas since the last half of the 6th century, if not earlier. It is a time for self-examination and asking for forgiveness as the church prepares for Christ’s Second Coming, even as it prepares for Christmas. Traditionally the color of the first three candles is purple, which signifies royalty. The 3rd week in Advent is set aside as more celebratory than the others, and the color for this week is rose, rather than purple, to mark the week. The purple and rose candles were used primarily in the Catholic church. Many Protestant churches that celebrate Advent use red candles instead.
The circle of the wreath and the evergreens used both signify God’s endless mercy and His undying love. The three purple candles and one rose-colored candle, or the four red ones, are evenly spaced around the wreath. A larger white candle is placed in the center of the wreath. The wreath can be as simple as four candle holders with greenery laid around them to form a circle, or very detailed, using a variety of greens that mean different aspects of the season. These include:
Ivy: to remind us of the human spirit clinging to God’s strength.
Cedar: to remind us of eternal life that is available to all of us through Christ.
Holly: to remind us of Jesus’ crown of thorns.
Bay: to remind us of victory over sin and death.
Celebrating Advent faithfully each day of the season, more than any other activity, can restore Jesus to the center of the Christmas celebration because on each Advent Sunday we read about the birth of our Savior and discuss it – bringing it to the center of our day. The whole family can be a part of it and find it to be meaningful. The memories and training will last a lifetime, and by doing it at home, each family can add their own emotion to the celebration.
When: Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Because Christmas falls on different days each year, Advent can last 22 to 28 days.
Prepare your family: Let your family know that this year you are going to start a new tradition to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. Deciding what time of day works best for you is something you should think about ahead of time. For us it is after dinner.
You need an Advent wreath, the five candles listed above, and a Bible for the nightly readings.
Beginning the celebration:
On the first day begin with either a prayer or a Christmas carol. Light the first purple (or red) candle, known as the prophecy candle. With the lighting, talk about Jesus being the light of the world. Read the Advent Scripture of the day. End by singing or praying. Blow out the candle. Light the same candle each day of the first week. Follow with the reading, Christmas carols or other meaningful activities.
Sun. Is. 40:1-5
Mon. Is. 52:7-10
Tue. Is. 40:9-11
Wed. Gen. 3:8-15
Thu. Gen. 15:1-6
Fri. Deut. 18:15-19
Sat. Ps. 89:1-4
On the second Sunday light two purple (or red) candles. The second candle is known as the Bethlehem candle. Read the Advent Scripture of the day, and end by singing or praying, and blow out the candles. Light the same candles each night of the week, followed by the readings, Christmas carols and prayer.
Sun. Is. 11:1-10
Mon. Zech. 6:12-13
Tue. Mic. 5:2-4
Wed. Mal. 3:1-6
Thu. John 1:1-8
Fri. John 1:9-18
Sat. Mark 1:1-3
The third week light the two purple (or red) candles and then a rose (if using – if not the 3rd red) candle, or shepherd candle. Rose is a sign of joy and hope that He is coming. Read the Advent Scripture of the day, and end by singing and praying and blow out the candles. Light these same three candles each day of the 3rd week, followed by the readings, Christmas carols and prayer.
Sun. Luke 1:5-13
Mon. Luke 1:14-17
Tue. Luke 1:18-25
Wed. Luke 1:39-45
Thu. Luke 1:46-56
Fri. Luke 1:57-66
Sat. Luke 1:67-80
On the fourth Sunday light the last candle, known as the angel candle, along with the first three candles. Read the Advent Scripture of the day, and end by singing and praying and finish by blowing out the candles. All four candles are lit each night that week to symbolize the growing brightness of Jesus’ coming.
Sun. Is. 7:10-14
Mon. Luke 1:26-35
Tue. Is. 9:2-7
Wed. Mt. 1:18-25
Thu. Luke 2:1-20
Fri. Mt. 2:1-2
Sat. Luke 2:21-35
(Since Advent is anywhere from 22 to 28 days, depending on how the dates land, you may have scriptures left over. Save the scriptures leftover for Christmas Eve)
Advent activities for Christmas Eve:
Conclude the Advent season by lighting all four candles and lighting the Jesus candle in the center of the wreath. Read the scriptures that are left after from the week. You could also celebrate Christ’s birth with a special birthday cake, sing Him the birthday song, sing carols, pray for each family member, and maybe share with each other something that was meaningful to each of you about celebrating Advent together.
Long after the presents and wrapping are put away, the decorations back in their boxes and the post-Christmas life begins for the next year, the memories and feeling of the four weeks of Advent will remain in your hearts and minds. Don’t be surprised if it turns out to be your family’s favorite tradition!