Before we look at the prophetic symbolism of Advent candles (below), let’s consider the purpose and significance of Advent candles.
The purpose is very simple. It’s to prepare our hearts for the celebration of remembering the birth of Jesus. The candles are to remind us of what happened more than 2,000 years ago when Jesus left Heaven and entered into our world, bringing light into darkness. (Watch the Jimmy Stewart video clip from his not-so-well-known Christmas movie and consider how you might have felt if you had been there at the manger).
The History of Advent Candles
Lighting of Advent candles is often thought to be a part of liturgical church services only (Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox, etc). It may be true that the tradition started with the Lutheran church, but it’s a practice that many churches now enjoy (some Presbyterian, Methodist, and even non-denominational churches).
The concept of the Advent wreath originated among German Lutherans in the 16th century. However, it was not until three centuries later that the modern Advent wreath took shape. Roman Catholics in Germany began to adopt the custom in the 1920s, and in the 1930s it spread to North America. The custom did not reach the United States until the 1930s, even among German Lutheran immigrants.
In medieval times, Advent was a period of fasting during which people’s thoughts were directed to the expected second coming of Christ. But in modern times, many have forgotten this meaning and it has instead been primarily seen as the lead up to Christmas, and in that context the Advent wreath serves as a reminder of the approach of the feast.
The Significance of Advent Candles
We light candles on each of the four Sundays preceding Christmas day. Read about each candle and watch our short and inspiring videos about the message each candle holds:
HOPE: Advent Candle 1 – Prophecy Gives Hope (video)
LOVE: Advent Candle 2 – Promise Reveals Love (video)
JOY: Advent Candle 3 – Jesus Is Our Joy (video)
PEACE: Advent Candle 4 – Pause to Find Peace (video)
After the four Sundays, Christmas day follows and we celebrate that day with the most significant Light of all the candles, the Christ Candle, reprenting Jesus’ incarnation.
Read about the Christ Candle and watch our short and inspiring video about the True Light who came into the darkness of our world, “not to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17)
The Original Significance & A New Significance of Advent Candles
Wikipedia reports that Advent candles were originally intended to have a prophetic significance. They were to point to the second coming of Jesus.
I suggest that there is a significant symbolism of each Advent candle, with the candles representing four parts of God’s total plan of redemption. The first two candles remind us of things promised and fulfilled, and the third and fourth point to things promised and yet to come.
The Four Candles Remind Us of God’s Grace
1. The first candle, “hope,” points to Jesus’ first coming, His incarnation as a man, which prophecy revealed. Jesus came as the Light of the World, just as God had said He would through His holy prophets of old. (Read/watch HOPE: Advent Candle 1 – Prophecy Gives Hope)
2. The second candle, “love,” points to thge cross, by which Jesus paid for the sins of the world and offers salvation. It reminds us of the love we receive in the forgiveness of our sins and the new life we have in Christ. We all know the great hope of salvation verse, John 3:16 — God so loved the world that He gave His Son so we can be saved. The light of the love candle illuminates that love and reminds us of our great salvation, given to us by God when we repented and trusted in Jesus. (Read/watch: LOVE: Advent Candle 2 – Promise Reveals Love)
3. The third candle is “joy.” This candle is symbolic of a future hope — the Rapture of all true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. While we were raised to new life in Jesus when He saved our souls, one day our bodies will also be raised and glorified in Heaven. And oh, what a joy it will be when Jesus comes for us, His Bride! (Read/watch: JOY: Advent Candle 3 – Jesus Is Our Joy)
4. The fourth candle is the candle of “peace.” It is also symbolic of a future hope — the shalom, the perfect peace, that will reign on earth when Jesus returns and sets up His Kingdom for 1,000 years. (Read/watch: PEACE: Advent Candle 4 – Pause to Find Peace)
One More Light
So the first two candles symbolically represent the first coming of Jesus — Jesus’ incarnation and His perfect sacrifice. The third candle represents His coming for His Bride and the fourth represents His second coming. You might be wondering, what about the Christ Candle?
I suggest that the Christ Candle points forward to the culmination of all world history. It symbolically represents eternity. It will begin when death and hell are cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:14) and when a new heaven and new earth come down from Heaven (Rev 21:1). There will be the holy city, the new Jerusalem, on the new earth (Rev 2`1:3) and all who have been redeemed will dwell forevermore with Jesus as the Light of the World. And the city will have no need for the sun (or for candles). The glory of God, the Lamb (Jesus), will be the light. (Rev 21:23)
The Prophetic Significance
- Hope Candle = Jesus’ incarnation
- Love Candle = The cross
- Joy Candle = The Rapture
- Peace Candle = Jesus’ Millennial Kingdom on Earth
- Christ Candle = Eternity
Christmas Song Videos to Touch the Heart and Rejoice the Soul
Mary’s Child — from the movie, A Christmas Wish
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, performed by Casting Crowns
The True Meaning of Christmas: The Sacrifice Began (How Many Kings)
The Season of Advent (the 4 weeks before Christmas)
What is Advent?
HOPE Advent Candle 1 – Prophecy Gives Hope (video)
LOVE Advent Candle 2 – Promise Reveals Love (video)
JOY Advent Candle 3 – Jesus Is Our Joy (video)
PEACE Advent Candle 4 – Pause to Find Peace (video)
Christmas Day: When Love Was Born — Light the CHRIST Candle
What is the Prophetic Symbolism of Advent Candles?
How Do We “Take” Advent and Find Rest?
Download a Daily Devotional for Advent
Christmas-themed GOT QUESTIONS?
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- I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, performed by Casting Crowns
- Mary’s Child — from the movie, A Christmas Wish
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- What If You Had Been There When Jesus Was Born? (video)
- Pause to Find Hope. Receive the Promises of God. See Jesus. Hear God’s Plan.
- Christmas Trivia Fun
- Songs of Christmas Series: Away in a Manger; Mary, Did You Know? The Rose of Bethlehem; Good Christian Men Rejoice; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; I Wonder As I Wander; What Child Is This? The First Noel; In the Bleak Midwinter (a golden oldie)
Have You Heard About This Baby Boy? A most beautiful rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, with a Christmas message to touch your heart and give joy to your soul.
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