The Lutheran Advent Wreath-1

Hope Lutheran, Enumclaw, WA Advent Wreath

I was surprised to read that many sources mention the Advent wreath as a Lutheran tradition. I was more shocked to discover the wreath is not exactly fraught with Lutheran liturgical symbolism. There is evidence suggesting that although the wreath was in use back in Roman times, the modern Advent wreath was not invented until the 19th century.[1]  Research by Prof. Haemig of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, points to Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808–1881), a Protestant pastor in Germany and a pioneer in urban mission work among the poor as the inventor of the modern Advent wreath.[2] He used the candles to mark the days until Christmas so that the children would stop asking when Christmas was coming. Since that time we have made attempts to provide more meaning to the candles centered around the images of Christmas. Liturgically, I think we can do better. If all these candles do is point our children to presents, or remind the adults how many shopping days are left, or warm our hearts with emotionalism about the season, we are missing the Christ-centered message of Christmas and God’s plan of salvation for the world. Let me humbly suggest the following as a way to inject more meaning and liturgical significance into this wonderful tradition.

The message of Advent is that since the time of the garden, God has been on a rescue mission. The Bible is the Gospel story of God pursuing us. He did not stop after man sinned and was cast out of the garden. He pursued Noah and saved his family. He did not stop with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or David. He is faithful and does not stop pursuing you when you become a Lutheran. Even when you daily chose sin and your own idols over him, or when you doubt his faithfulness, God is there calling you by name. He does not stop pursuing you if you are marginal in your faith, or if you hide your sin behind your outward works or disguise an empty heart of worship.  Simply, he pursues you because he chose you. These candles can remind us of the covenant God has made with us and the promise of his faithfulness.

 

THE WREATH: The wreath itself is a circle. It begins with God creating us and loving us. In spite of that love, we choose our own gods and fell away. God pursues us, redeems us and restores us to himself and makes us new creatures. In adoration for all God has done, we worship and adore Christ and raise him above everything else in our lives. Our sin is eclipsed by the work of Christ with him in the center of our lives. Our sin no longer enslaves us; we are free to worship as God intended. Christ rules and reigns victorious.

Romans 8:37:No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

CANDLE ONE: Our first candle can represent the life God brought into the world when he breathed into existence man and woman. God saw all things were good, and in his grace he created man to be very good. The Trinitarian God chose man and woman to worship him, to reflect his image and to have fellowship with him. God pursued us in the garden, he walked, talked and had fellowship with Adam and Eve. Yet, with the same breath of life God shared with man, man returned that breath with a lie to his creator. Despite their disobedience, God gave his first covenant to provide a way to reestablish our relationship with him. We repent, we prepare, and we await for the fulfillment of His covenant.

IS 35:4 Say to those who have an anxious heart,

Be strong; fear not!

Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God.

He will come and save you. 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,

and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer,

and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness,

and streams in the desert.

Song:

Prayer:

Post your suggestions, your liturgies, and recommendations for songs and prayers. 

[1] John Trigilio, Kenneth Brighenti. The Catholicism Answer Book: The 300 Most Frequently Asked Questions. Sourcebooks. Retrieved 2010-12-02. “Historically, the Advent wreath is a Lutheran custom dating back three hundred years ago.”

[2] Johann Hinrich Wichern biography (in German)

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