THE ADVENT WREATH is one of the most recognized Advent symbols and a common Advent devotion. It consists of a horizontal wreath of evergreens into which four candles are placed -- three purple candles (a sign of royalty) and one pink candle (a sign of joy). The candles are lit in succession for each week of Advent. The circle of evergreens represent God's never-ending love for humankind; the candles symbolize the long years during which the Hebrew people waited for the promised Messiah who, when he arrived, enlightened a world made dark by human ignorance and sin with the light of God's love and forgiveness. The first two purple candles, lit during the first two weeks of Advent, represent hope and faith; the pink candle, lit during the third week, symbolizes joy; the third purple candle, lit during the last week of Advent, symbolizes peace -- all four representing the gifts which the Son of God's Incarnation bring to human kind.
Lighting of the candles is accompanied by prayers and scripture readings which also remind us that the fullness of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ grows gradually, both in ourselves and in a world still waiting for the final expression of God's eternal kingdom of peace and justice. The Advent wreath is believed to have originated among German Lutherans in the sixteenth century, but did not become popular there until the mid-nineteenth century; it was gradually adopted by other Christian denominations.