Sunday marks the start of Advent, a time when Christians will commemorate the coming of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to the earth.
Advent marks the beginning of the liturgical year and includes the four Sundays leading up to the celebration of Christmas. It ends on Christmas Eve.
Many churches mark the season by lighting candles on a wreath. The circular nature of the wreath symbolizes God’s eternity, according to information on the United Methodist Church website.
Four candles are placed around the wreath, one for each week in Advent, and some churches use a larger white candle in the middle to represent Christ. The four outer candles can be purple or three purple or blue and one rose or pink, according to the website.
Each Sunday of Advent in the United Methodist Church emphasizes a virtue Christ brings: hope, love, joy and peace, according to the website. Some people emphasize expectation, hope, joy and purity.
In the Catholic Church, the three purple candles “symbolize the prayer, penance and preparatory sacrifices and good works” associated with the season, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website.
The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday. This day is a day of rejoicing because it is the midpoint of Advent for believers.
“The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead,” according to the Conference of Catholic Bishops.
For churches that light a Christ candle, it is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and reminds Christians “that Jesus is the light of the world,” according to the United Methodist Church website.