The Advent Wreath is more than a pretty decoration. It is a trigger during the four weeks of the Advent season to turn our thoughts and heart toward Jesus.

Many different meanings have been given to the four candles and the other parts of the wreath. None are right or wrong. Here is one common interpretation of the meaning of the various parts of the Advent wreath.

The wreath is circular to symbolize the infinity of God. It is green to symbolize the everlasting life found in Christ and to express Christian hope. The candles signify God’s Son, the Light of the World. Only one candle is lit during the first week. The first candle pierces the darkness of the world. Each week an additional candle is lit, increasing the light as Jesus approaches.

Several different meanings have been given to the four candles. The first candle reminds us God has fulfilled all of his Old Testament prophecies (more than 300!) concerning the coming Savior. The first of these was given in the garden of Eden when God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). It is often called The Prophecy Candle.

The second candle reminds us God prepared for the coming of his Son into the manger of Bethlehem. So we also ought to prepare for his coming into the manger of our hearts today through his Word and Sacraments. “But you, Bethlehem Ephratha, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to me the One to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). The second candle is often called The Bethlehem Candle.

The third candle reminds us to tell this good news of the birth of Jesus with joy, just like the shepherds did after they had come and seen the child in the manger. “Now when they had seen him they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. . . . And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:17-20). It is often called The Shepherds’ Candle.

The fourth candle reminds us of the Christian’s great hope of resurrection and everlasting life because the Christ Child will come again on the clouds of heaven with his angels. “The angel said, . . . He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David . . . and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33). It is often called The Angels’ Candle.

There is often a fifth candle in the center of the Advent Wreath, known as The Christ Candle, symbolizing Jesus as the true Light of the World. The prophet wrote, “Arise, shine; for your light has come” (Isaiah 60:1). Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).

May the Advent wreath, and many other symbols, guide our hearts and minds to faith in Christ Jesus.