Advent Wreath Prayers and Scripture Readings: An Advent Family Devotional
The Advent Wreath is a tradition related to Advent, the Church season immediately preceding Christmas. The Advent Wreath, which includes prayers and Bible readings, is a popular tradition among Catholic and Protestant Christians alike. It is often used in homes among families, and in churches and schools.
Advent Wreath History, Information, and Instructions
The Advent wreath was likely first used as a Christian devotion in the Middle Ages. The design was borrowed from the customs of pre-Christian (mainly Germanic and Scandinavian) cultures, who used candles and greenery (often paired) as symbols during the dark and dead winter to represent light and life. An Advent wreath is a circular evergreen wreath with four or five candles, three purple, one rose, and (if you use the five-candle model), one white one for Christmas Day. If used, the white candle is placed in the center. More recently, some Protestant traditions use four blue candles. However, Catholics still use the traditional colors because they dually symbolize both royalty and penitence, two important Advent themes. A wreath may be hand-crafted of real or artificial materials or purchased at craft and candle stores. The candles symbolize the light of Christ coming into the world. The evergreen symbolizes renewal in Christ, the kind of renewal hoped for by those before Christ's first coming, and the ultimate renewal we long for in Christ's second coming. The circular shape symbolizes the completeness of God. It is likely the symbolism came after the actual wreath was conceived of, but that does not detract from the power of the symbols.
The candle colors are derived from the traditional liturgical colors of Advent and Christmas, purple and white respectively. The rose color likely is derived from an old Catholic custom of wearing rose colored vestments on the third Sunday in Advent, Gaudete Sunday, i.e. "Rejoice" Sunday. Each candle is first lit on the appropriate Sunday of Advent, and then the candles may be lit each day as a part of the individual or family's daily prayers. Often the wreath is placed in a sacred space or home altar area. Certain candles have been given various names to go with the various Advent wreath prayers.
Some systems name the candles as follows:
- Candle 1 = Hope (purple)
- Candle 2 = Peace (purple)
- Candle 3 = Joy (rose; the corresponding Sunday is "Gaudete Sunday")
- Candle 4 = Love (purple)
- Candle 5 = Christ (white)
Others do it like this:
- Candle 1 = Patriarchs
- Candle 2 = Prophets
- Candle 3 = John the Baptist
- Candle 4 = Mary, the mother of Jesus.
- Candle 5 = Christ, the light of the world
Either way can be helpful for celebrating the true meaning of Advent. If you do not wish to use either taxonomy, simply praying the prayers listed below as you light the candles, and then reflecting on the scriptures, is the best way to proceed. Since the Advent wreath is a devotion, there are a variety of ways to make use of it. The service we provide below is a good guide to get you started, but it can also be expanded upon. We encourage you to develop your own customs and prayers if you wish, based in Scripture and Church Tradition. Some families choose to light the wreath only on Sundays, while others light it daily to more fully celebrate Advent. Many Catholics and non-Catholics like to get their wreaths blessed by a priest before using them. A blessing formula has been included here as well. Please feel free to use the guide below as you incorporate the Advent wreath into your Advent prayer life. To learn more about Advent itself, please see our All About Advent page.
Blessing of the Wreath
Directions Laypersons may use the first blessing, Formula A. A priest or deacon may bless using the second formula.
Blessing for the Advent Wreath (by laypersons): O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth thy blessing upon this wreath and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the Coming of Christ, and may receive from thee abundant graces. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Blessing of the Advent Wreath (by priests or deacons) : Blessed are you, O Lord our God, king of the universe. You sent your Son to be the Light of the world and to spread his light of love to all. Bless us and accept + these wreaths of light made from our hands. May their ever increasing brightness be a sign to us of the approaching nearness of your Son, that we might prepare in joy for his humble birth in a manger and be ready to receive him at his coming again in glory; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
(From Celebrating Advent and Christmas: A Sourcebook for Families.) 2001 by Women for Faith and Family, http://wf-f.org
First Sunday and Week of Advent
Directions Light the first purple candle.
Prayer: Stir up thy power, O Lord, and come, that by thy protection we may be rescued from the dangers that beset us through our sins; and be a Redeemer to deliver us; Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Alternate/Complementary Prayer: O Emmanuel, Jesus Christ, desire of every nation, Savior of all peoples, come and dwell among us. (From Christmas Prayers, Victor Hoagland, C.P.)
Scriptures: Isaiah 11:1-10; Luke 1:26-38, Isaiah 7:10-14; Matthew 1:18-24
Second Sunday and Week of Advent
Directions Light the first purple candle and repeat first week's prayer. Light the second purple candle.
Prayer: Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the paths of thine Only-begotten Son: that we may worthily serve thee with hearts purified by His coming: Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Alternate/Complementary Prayer: O King of all nations, Jesus Christ, only joy of every heart, come and save your people. (From Christmas Prayers, Victor Hoagland, C.P.)
Scriptures: Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11; Isaiah 2:1-5; Matthew 3:1-6
Third Sunday and Week of Advent
Directions Light the first purple candle and repeat first week's prayer. Light the second purple candle and repeat second week's prayer. Light the rose candle.
Prayer: We beseech thee to listen to our prayers, O Lord, and by the grace of thy coming enlighten our darkened minds: Thou who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.
Alternate/Complementary Prayer: O Key of David, Jesus Christ, the gates of heaven open at your command, come and show us the way to salvation. (From Christmas Prayers, Victor Hoagland, C.P.)
Scriptures: Isaiah 9:6-7; John 1:19-34; Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; Philippians 2:1-11
Fourth Sunday and Week of Advent
Directions Light the first purple candle and repeat first week's prayer. Light the second purple candle and repeat second week's prayer. Light the rose candle and repeat third week's prayer. Light the fourth purple candle.
Prayer: Pour forth thy power, O Lord, and come: Assist us by that mighty power, so that by thy grace and merciful kindness we may swiftly receive the salvation that our sins impede: Who livest and reignest with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Alternate/Complementary Prayer: O Wisdom, holy Word of God, Jesus Christ, all things are in your hands, come and show us the way to salvation. (From Christmas Prayers, Victor Hoagland, C.P.)
Scriptures: Malachi 3:1-5; Romans 8:18-25; Isaiah 52:7-10; Revelation 21:1-4
Christmas Day and Christmastide
Directions for five-candle wreaths: Light four preceding candles, repeating each week's prayers while lighting them. Light the center white candle.
Directions for four-candle wreaths: Replace all Advent candles with white candles and light all of them.
Prayer: God of love, Father of all, the darkness that covered the earth has given way to the bright dawn of your Word made flesh. Make us a people of this light. Make us faithful to your Word that we may bring your life to the waiting world. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen. (From The Roman Missal, Catholic Book Publishing Co.)
Alternate/Complementary Prayer: Let the just rejoice, for their justifier is born. Let the sick and infirm rejoice, For their saviour is born. Let the captives rejoice, For their Redeemer is born. Let slaves rejoice, for their Master is born. Let free men rejoice, For their Liberator is born. Let All Christians rejoice, For Jesus Christ is born. St. Augustine of Hippo
Scriptures: Isaiah 9:1-6; Luke 2:1-20; John 1:1-18; Titus 2:11-14
Compiled by David Bennett