The Advent Wreath
A Reflection by Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Lutherans began using an Advent Wreath in 16th Century Germany. More recently, in the early 1800's, the wreath became popular. Roman Catholics began using wreaths in the 1920's in Germany, and later in USA. "In Medieval times Advent was a fast during which people's thoughts were directed to the expected second coming of Christ; but in modern times it has been seen as the lead up to Christmas, and in that context Advent Wreaths serve as a reminder of the approach of the feast." (Wikipedia)
The candles specifically symbolize the Christian concepts of hope (week one), peace (week two), joy (week three) and love (week four) in many traditions.
Bishop Robert J. Baker of Birmingham, AL: "An Advent wreath is traditionally made of evergreens in a circle, symbolizing God's unending love. It includes three purple candles, and the candle for the third week of Advent is pink in most Advent wreaths. It signifies the hope of the coming of Christ, Baker said. "Hope is needed in our culture," Baker said. "People are struggling economically. People are in dire need of hope." For Christians, that hope comes from the birth of Jesus, he said. For the first week, there is one purple candle lit on the Advent wreath every day. Another is added the second week. A pink candle is lit the third week, another purple candle the fourth week. The three purple candles and the pink candle are all lit on the last Sunday before Christmas and throughout that week. A white candle at the center of most Advent wreaths, the Christ candle, is lit on Christmas day, Baker said. (2016)
The Congregation of Divine Worship describes Advent: “Advent has a twofold character: as a season to prepare for Christmas when Christ's first coming to us is remembered; as a season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ's Second Coming at the end of time. Advent is thus a period for devout and joyful expectation.” 
In the Gospel the Second Sunday of Advent, "John the Baptist tells us to prepare the way of the Lord. He is talking not about the babe in the manger but about the adult Christ soon to begin his public ministry. This prayer presents our response to Christs call to join his company." (USCCB)
“As we gather together to meet Christ in the assembly, in the word, in the ministers and in the Eucharist our efforts simply to arrive at church with the proper disposition provide the context for this prayer about hastening to meet Christ. We gather from every walk of life and these earthly undertakings are not cast in a negative light except in their ability to hinder us for our single-minded pursuit of Christ and his company.” (USCCB)
“We learn heavenly wisdom in the liturgy of the word when we hear the voice of Christ, the Wisdom of God. This heavenly wisdom, in turn, helps us to conduct our earthly undertakings in a way that does not hinder our single-minded pursuit of Christ and his company. We gain admittance to Christs company when we are baptized as Christians, and time and time again when we join with the baptized in the liturgical celebration where we form the body of Christ, the Church in action. We gain admittance to his company when we share in communion. We gain admittance to Christs company when we welcome him who comes to us in our neighbor in their need, which is the only criterion given in the Gospel for the final judgment and admittance to the company of saints.” (USCCB).
The third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete Sunday (coming from the first word of the Latin Entrance Antiphon for this day, meaning "Rejoice") and the liturgical color may be rose instead of purple. This is the Church's way of further heightening our expectation as we draw ever nearer the Solemnity of Christmas. (USCCB).
"When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor's birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: "He must increase, but I must decrease." (CCC 524)
To sum up, the Advent Wreath is a visual reminder at home or in church of what we are celebrating in these four weeks of Advent, as a lead in to Christmas. It is easily glossed over in the commercial frenzy of cute “holiday” music that one hears between Thanksgiving (and earlier) and New Year’s. Rather, I recommend that you get serious about Advent, the beauty of our liturgies, priests doing their best to present good homilies (remember, not every priest preaches like Bishop Sheen, but they try).
There is a plethora of good church music in the Advent season, sacred art and music, if one takes the time to find it. Hint: Google ”sacred music for advent”
You’ll find: Moving Melodies: How Advent Music Prepares Us for Christmas. The Church possesses a treasure house of preparatory hymns and carols, by Brian O’Neel (Dec. 14, 2017 National Catholic Register)
Have a Blessed Advent!
Fred Schaeffer, OFS 12/5/2018
Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis
Divine Mercy Fraternity
Vero Beach, FL
Officers as of 1/10/2016
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Helen Caldarone, OFS
Mary "Jean" McGovern, OFS
Jack Reddy, OFS
Donna Haro, OFS
Joanne Giordano, OFS
Fred Schaeffer, OFS