The Celebration of Christmas
When we celebrate a special occasion, event or birthday, in life there is preparation involved. Advent, which marks the beginning of the Church year, involves a four week spiritual preparation before Christmas when we celebrate the Birth of Jesus.
Advent is derived from the Latin word ‘adventus’ meaning ‘coming’. In the Church liturgy of Advent the readings reflect on the long-awaited first coming of Jesus, His second coming when He will come in all His Power and Glory, and His coming to us in our daily living and at the end of our lives.
The use of the Advent Wreath and candles during Advent is a long standing Catholic tradition and a good way to help us in our preparation for Christmas. It is a sign of hope, and the light of expectation grows as the candles of the Advent wreath are lit. The lighted candle in the window on Christmas night signifies the welcome of that household to the Holy Family on their journey.
Symbols of the Advent Wreath
The Wreath is circular in shape, having no beginning or end, and signifies eternity and the immortality of the soul. The Evergreens signify new life through Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. Three Purple Candles representing prayer, penance and sacrifice, and a Pink Candle representing Joy are lit for Advent. On Christmas Day, a White Candle representing Jesus the Light of the World, who came to scatter the darkness of evil, is lit.
1st Sunday: The 1st Purple Candle is lit. It is a symbol of Hope representing the prophets of old, especially Isaiah who foretold the birth of Christ. It is sometimes called the ‘Prophecy Candle’.
2nd Sunday: The 2nd Purple Candle is lit. It represents Faith and is called the ‘Bethlehem Candle’ as a reminder of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem.
3rd Sunday: A Pink Candle is lit. It is the liturgical colour for Joy, on Gaudete Sunday, to remind us of the joy that the world experiences at the birth of Jesus. It is sometimes called the ‘Shepherd’s Candle’.
4th Sunday: The last Purple Candle is lit. It marks the final week of prayer and penance. It is called the ‘Angel’s Candle’ which symbolises peace.
Symbols of the Crib
Bethlehem means “House of Bread”. Jesus was laid in a Manger because He was destined to be the Food of the World. The Straw for his bed symbolises that He was the Divine Wheat later to become the Eucharistic Bread. The Donkey was a biblical symbol of the Israelites, the chosen people. The Ox was a biblical symbol of the Gentiles. The Shepherds, representatives of the chosen people, brought a Lamb as a gift and were the first to honour The Lamb of God. The Magi were the representatives of the Gentiles, when Jesus manifested Himself to the world.
The highlight of Christmas celebrations for Christians is the celebration of Mass [CHRIST MASS]. Without Christmas there could be no Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus which paved the way of Salvation for us. It is the special time of the year, when Earth meets Heaven. The traditional singing of Christmas Carols is a reminder to us of past events. Family get-togethers are an important feature of Christmas celebrations, whether as a member of the natural family or the family of Community. As baptised people we are all members of God’s family.
This Christmas that has seen bewildering changes due to the Covid 19 pandemic, which have affected so many people worldwide, should serve as a reminder to us all to focus on the true meaning of Christmas in our celebrations.
A Christmas Prayer
[Traditionally recited 15 times a day from November 30th to Christmas Day]
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen