Pastor Bramwell delivered this sermon on December 13, 2015 (The Third Sunday in Advent). The sermon text is from the Gospel reading Luke 7:18-28, specifically verses 18-23.
The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
But seriously, what’s the Advent wreath all about? What’s with the blue (or purple) and pink (rose) colored candles… and that big white one in the middle? Why is this piece of sanctuary furniture only brought out of the closet once a year?
To get answers let’s first turn to a pastor who wrote the book on ceremony and celebration (why and how the church — at least the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod — does what it does). Okay, maybe it’s not the book, but really, Rev. Paul H.D. Lang wrote his extremely informative book, Ceremony and Celebration, with the hope and prayer that it “may contribute something to that phase of Lutheran liturgy which is concerned about its ceremonies” in order that it may “help promote the welfare of the church and the worship of God in and by the church, especially the Lutheran Church.” (Ceremony and Celebration. Preface. iii) In other words, so others, like us, could learn about things like the Advent wreath.
Concerning the tradition of the Advent wreath that originally comes from Germany, he writes,
“The lighting of an Advent wreath during Advent Season is a Christian ceremony which has come down to us from about the time of Martin Luther. As before the birth of Christ the light of prophecy concerning His advent and his redemptive work became brighter and brighter, so the nearer we come in the church year to the feast of His Nativity the greater the amount of light from the Advent wreath. This ceremony is helpful for recalling, discussing, and teaching the significance of Advent.
Think of the wreath like a candle clock, kind of like a birthday cake. The closer we get to Christmas the brighter the light gets! The older grandma gets, the brighter and more dangerous the candles become on her birthday cake.
An Advent wreath can be made by tying evergreen branches to a metal or wooden hoop, thus making a wreath.
Or purchased at Wal-Mart, Target, or any other fine wreath retailer in your area.
The wreath can be hung from the ceiling or from a stand. In the church an appropriate place for it is before the altar if it is hung from the ceiling and high enough to walk under it. Otherwise, it can be placed on the north or south side of the chancel, preferably on the north side.”
He goes on to speak about the lighting of the candles, lighting one and then two and then three and then four with each passing week of Advent. What Rev. Lang doesn’t mention is the specific colors of the candles.
It used to be the common practice to have all white candles on the wreath. By the beginning of the 20th century, however, the tradition of the Advent wreath included three purple candles and one pink (rose) one.
But, wait. I’m used to seeing the wreath with blue candles, not purple. That can be the case. The purple/blue candles match the color of the paraments in your church. If your church wears the color blue during Advent, like Christ Lutheran does, then odds are your wreath has blue candles.
Purple is the color of royalty. It was the most expensive color to create back in the day — no, not when you were a kid — in Biblical times. Liturgically speaking, purple represents penitence and self-discipline. Blue, in the church, is the color of hope and anticipation. An argument can be made for the use of either color during the season of Advent. That’s a blog post for another day.
The Altar Guild Manual, by Lee A. Maxwell states that the reason we don’t typically see all white candles on the wreath anymore is because “ecclesiastical supply houses have promoted the custom of using colored candles” instead of white ones. These same supply houses also promote “the use of the Christ Candle” which is in the center of many wreaths, like the one pictured above, but wasn’t part of original Advent wreaths. Traditionally, the use of the Christ Candle is discouraged because the Advent wreath was removed from the chancel or nave on Christmas. There was no need for it because it was just a take on the paschal candle (the big white candle by the baptismal font) that’s already in the church. Today we see a lot of Christ Candles in the center of Advent wreaths. Those wreaths typically remain in the church for the duration of the twelve days of Christmas.
So we know what the purple/blue is all about, what those colors represent. What about the pink (rose) candle? Pink (rose) is used to represent rejoicing, which is the theme of the Third Sunday in Advent. No, the acolyte isn’t messing up when he lights the pink (rose) one on the third Sunday. That’s what’s supposed to happen. It’s the week where we read Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice.” It’s a week set apart, especially if you use the purple theme of Advent, with a distinctly different, yet similarly couched focus. For a great article about all the rejoicing going on on Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday in Advent, and how it stands out from the rest of Advent, check out this article by Rev. Roberto Rojas Jr.
There are a bunch of traditions surrounding the Advent wreath. If you have a certain custom that you practice with your family I’d love to hear about it, just pull me aside at church or give me a call. In the mean time may our Lord bless you this Advent season!
There are a number of opportunities to come together and receive the gifts of our Lord during the season of advent as we anticipate and prepare for the coming (advent) of our Lord.
Sundays at 10:00 a.m.
- November 29 (First Sunday in Advent)
- December 6 (Second Sunday in Advent)
- December 13 (Third Sunday in Advent)
- December 20 (Fourth Sunday in Advent)
Sundays at 4:00 p.m.
- December 6 (Christmas program by our Early Childhood students)
- December 13 (Christmas program by our K – 8th grade students)
Wednesdays at 6:00 p.m. All three of these services follow a delicious dinner that begins at 5:15 p.m.
- December 2 (First Midweek Advent Service)
- December 9 (Second Midweek Advent Service)
- December 16 (Third Midweek Advent Service)
As advent draws to a close we rejoice in the remembrance of our Lord’s birth, celebrating, in peace, the season of Christmas on Christmas Eve and Christmas day.
- December 24 (Christmas Eve – Candle light) at 7:00 p.m.
- December 25 (Christmas Day) at 10:00 a.m.
We hope to see you at church! May our heavenly Father bless you and your family this holiday season.
Yesterday, in church, Pastor announced two different worship resources. One of them is a Thanksgiving Litany and Grace (it was printed on a blue sheet of paper and handed out at the end of the service). If you’d like to print off more copies so that you can have enough for every person at your Thanksgiving Day dinner table, if you didn’t get a copy, or if you’d just rather have a PDF version to use on your mobile device it’s our pleasure to provide this great resource here. Simply click the “Unwrapping the Gifts” image below (or the previous link).
The other resource that was distributed yesterday was a devotional booklet for Advent and Christmas (Nov. 29 – Jan. 5) called Higher Things Reflections. It can be downloaded either by clicking the cover image or the following link: Higher Things Reflections: Advent and Christmas devotions booklet
Both of these resources are great tools that will help you stay in God’s Word during the holidays. May God bless you in these times of heightened thankfulness, anticipation, and peace.
At Christ Lutheran Church we love kids! Of course, you probably already realized that. You know, given that the congregation operates an Early Childhood Education center and K-8 elementary school. Kids are awesome! We’ve placed a little informational card that expresses our love of God’s youngest children and helps parents know that their kiddos are always welcome (and encouraged) to stay in service and worship with the rest of God’s children. It reads,
To the parents of our young children, may we suggest…
Relax. God put the wiggle in children; don’t feel you have to suppress it in God’s house. All are welcome!
Sit toward the front where it is easier for your little ones to see and hear what’s going on at the altar. They tire of seeing the backs of people’s heads.
Quietly explain the parts of the Divine Service and actions of the pastor, lectors, Communion assistants, choir, etc.
Sing the hymns, pray, and speak the responses. Children learn how to worship by copying you.
If you have to leave the Divine Service with your child, feel free to do so, but please come back. As Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.”
Remember that the way we welcome children in church directly affects the way they respond to the church, to God, and to one another. Let them know that they are at home in this house of worship.
Let your child use the reverse side of this card and/or the pages of a bulletin to draw, color, and doodle.
To the members of our congregation…
The presence of children is a gift to the Church and they are a joyful reminder that our church is growing. Please welcome our children and give a smile of encouragement to their parents.