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Palmyra Reformed Church
The Advent wreath, at first glance, is just a pleasing seasonal decoration, much like strings of lights or mistletoe. A ring of evergreens, five bright candles—what could be more appropriate for the Christmas season? Not until worshipers understand how the wreath symbolizes the meaning of the Advent season do they begin seeing in the evergreen and candles a visual reminder of the coming of Christ.

A Season of Longing

Sometime after the sixth century the church designated the four Sundays before Christmas as Advent. This season, which begins the liturgical year, was not intended to be a merry four–week celebration of Christmas. Such celebration was reserved for Christmas Day and Christmastide, the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany (January 6). Advent was, in contrast, an echo of Israel’s deep longing for the promised Messiah. As such, the season, also known as Winter Lent, called for fasting and penitence.
However, Advent was never as austere as regular Lent; joy always seemed to be rippling just beneath the surface. And on the third Sunday of the season, believers were invited to break their fast and rejoice.
This joining of penitence and joy during Advent continued in later centuries. Even though the church demanded self–examination during this season, it also, with an undercurrent of joyful anticipation, encouraged believers to focus on the four comings, or "advents," of Christ: the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah, the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, the presence of Christ in the hearts of believers, and the second coming.

"A Great Light"

 Today Advent is still a time of joyful anticipation, of studying Bible passages that reveal the comings of Christ. For many churches it is also a time for lighting candles in an Advent wreath, a visual aid that helps the congregation better see and understand the meaning of the Advent season.
The wreath, first of all, has a circular shape. The circle, without beginning or end, reminds us of Jesus’ divinity, of his sacrifice in becoming Immanuel, and of his unending love and care for us.
The evergreens, a sign of life amid the starkness of winter, point to Christ’s redemptive gift of life, now and forever. With the assurance of this gift, we can eagerly pray for Christ to return and to restore all of creation.
The Advent candles call forth memories of the contrast between darkness and light—between the darkness of sin and separation from God and the rich messianic promise that God’s people will see a "great light."
The four Advent candles in the wreath are lit successively, one candle the first week, two candles the second week, and so on. On Christmas the center, Christ candle is lit. This tradition of increasing the number of candles each week sharpens our anticipation as it reminds us that we are getting closer and closer to the celebration of Christ’s birth. Jesus announced himself as the completion of Isaiah’s promise of "a great light" when he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life" (John 8:12, NIV). The full blaze of light in the Advent wreath on Christmas represents the fulfillment of this promise.
232 Canandaigua Street Palmyra, NY 14522  Phone #: 315-597-4341
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