What Does Advent Mean in Christianity? Symbolism, Theme & Practice

by Hyacinth

Advent is a sacred season observed in Christianity, heralding the arrival of the Messiah and preparing believers for the celebration of Christ’s birth at Christmas. Rooted in centuries of tradition, Advent holds profound spiritual significance for Christians worldwide, serving as a period of reflection, anticipation, and hope. This article explores the rich tapestry of Advent, delving into its historical origins, symbolic representations, and contemporary practices within the Christian faith.

Historical Origins of Advent

The origins of Advent can be traced back to the early centuries of Christianity. While the precise inception of Advent as a liturgical season is not definitively documented, its roots can be found in the practices of early Christian communities. In the fourth century, Advent emerged as a time of spiritual preparation for the feast of Epiphany, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.

Over time, the focus of Advent shifted to the anticipation of Christ’s nativity, aligning more closely with the celebration of Christmas. The duration of Advent varied among different Christian traditions and regions, ranging from a few weeks to as long as six weeks. However, by the Middle Ages, Advent had generally settled into a four-week period preceding Christmas, with each week dedicated to specific themes and readings.

Symbolism of Advent

Advent is imbued with rich symbolism, encompassing various elements that convey the spiritual essence of the season. One of the most prominent symbols of Advent is the Advent wreath, typically made of evergreen branches and adorned with candles. The circular shape of the wreath represents the eternal nature of God, while the candles symbolize the light of Christ illuminating the darkness of the world.

Each candle on the Advent wreath carries its own significance, corresponding to the four weeks of Advent. The first candle, often purple or blue, symbolizes hope and is known as the “Prophet’s Candle” or the “Candle of Hope.” The second candle represents peace and is called the “Bethlehem Candle” or the “Candle of Peace.” The third candle, typically pink or rose-colored, signifies joy and is known as the “Shepherd’s Candle” or the “Candle of Joy.” The fourth candle symbolizes love and is called the “Angel’s Candle” or the “Candle of Love.”

In addition to the candles, other symbols associated with Advent include the Advent calendar, which provides a daily countdown to Christmas, and the Jesse tree, a decorative tree adorned with symbols representing the lineage of Jesus Christ as described in the Old Testament.

Themes of Advent

Throughout the four weeks of Advent, Christians reflect on a series of themes that capture the essence of the season. These themes are typically represented by the candles on the Advent wreath and serve as focal points for meditation and prayer.

The first week of Advent centers on hope, reflecting on the promise of the Messiah’s coming and the anticipation of God’s fulfillment of his covenant with humanity. As believers light the first candle, they are reminded of the hope that Christ brings into the world, offering salvation and redemption to all who believe.

The second week focuses on peace, highlighting the role of Christ as the Prince of Peace who brings reconciliation and harmony to a fractured world. In a time marked by conflict and discord, the message of peace resonates deeply, calling believers to embody the values of compassion, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

The third week celebrates joy, rejoicing in the imminent arrival of the Savior and the fulfillment of God’s promise to bring joy to the hearts of his people. As believers light the third candle, they are invited to cultivate a spirit of gratitude and rejoicing, recognizing the abundant blessings that God has bestowed upon them.

The fourth week centers on love, emphasizing the selfless and unconditional love embodied by Christ in his incarnation and sacrificial death on the cross. As believers prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, they are called to reflect on the profound love of God manifested in the gift of his Son to humanity.

Contemporary Practices of Advent

In contemporary Christianity, Advent is observed in a variety of ways, ranging from traditional liturgical practices to modern customs and rituals. Many churches incorporate Advent wreaths into their worship services, lighting the candles each week and reflecting on the corresponding themes.

Devotional readings and prayers are also common during Advent, providing believers with spiritual nourishment and guidance as they journey through the season of preparation. Advent calendars, which originated in the 19th century, have become a popular tradition among Christians and non-Christians alike, offering a daily reminder of the approaching Christmas celebration.

In addition to these practices, acts of service and charity are often emphasized during Advent, as believers seek to embody the spirit of Christ by reaching out to those in need and spreading love and compassion in their communities. Advent provides an opportunity for individuals and families to engage in acts of kindness and generosity, reflecting the true meaning of Christmas as a season of giving and sharing.


In conclusion, Advent holds a special place in the hearts of Christians around the world, serving as a sacred season of preparation and anticipation for the celebration of Christ’s birth. From its ancient origins to its contemporary practices, Advent is rich in symbolism and significance, inviting believers to journey inward and draw closer to God as they await the coming of the Savior.

As the candles on the Advent wreath are lit each week, they serve as reminders of the hope, peace, joy, and love that Christ brings into the world. Through prayer, reflection, and acts of service, Christians embrace the spirit of Advent, preparing their hearts to welcome the newborn King with humility, reverence, and gratitude. In this season of expectation and wonder, may the light of Christ shine brightly in our lives, illuminating the darkness and guiding us on the path of faith, hope, and love.

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