What Is the Second Week of Advent Candle's Meaning?
Each advent candle has some special meaning behind it and presents an opportunity to think about the Christmas season in a new way. The second week of Advent takes us from thinking about hope to a related idea - peace - something we all need to think more about. Let's take a look at the beautiful reminders we experience during the second week of Advent.
How Old Is the Advent Wreath?
The article for Week 1 of Advent highlighted how Advent celebrations go back centuries, but the Advent Wreath as we know it was invented in 1839. People use different kinds of advent wreaths for different occasions, but the most standard one has four purple (one pink or rose-colored) inside the wreath. Each of the four candles is lit when a new week of December starts, and each one has a particular meaning attached to it. Some people will add a white candle to the center of the wreath, which is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and represents baby Jesus.
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What Does the Second Week of Advent Candle stand for?
The first advent candle (“The Prophet’s Candle”) is purple and represents hope. The second advent candle (“The Bethlehem Candle”) is also purple and represents peace. In some traditions, the second candle and the fourth one (“The Angel’s Candle,” representing love) may be interchanged.
Peace is a central theme of the Advent season but the main focus of the second week of Advent. One of the prophecies about Jesus calls him “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6-7). When the angels appeared to the shepherds, they ended their message by saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). When Simeon saw baby Jesus in the temple, he thanked God that he could now die in peace for he had seen the Messiah (Luke 2:29-33). On a broader level, the Bible talks in various places about a spiritual war going on between goodness and evil (or “powers and principalities” [Ephesians 6:12]). The combination of Satan fighting against goodness and humans fighting against God has made the earth a battleground in an ongoing fight.
What Does Peace Really Mean?
Peace is one of those words that people often use, but they don’t always explain it very well. Depending on which religion or philosophy that people follow, their definitions of peace may be highly different. In some Eastern religions, finding serenity or inner peace means believing that everything dies; all is nothing. Since we get very different ideas of what peace is depending on who we talk to, it’s important as Christians to understand how the Bible describes peace.
In Hebrew, the word for peace is shalom. Throughout the Bible, shalom is used in several ways. When people are feeling physically well, others say that they “are shalom” (Genesis 29:6). People who have shalom with God have his protection and blessing (Numbers 25:12). People who have friendships with each other or have recently reconciled, such as when 11 tribes of Israel ended a feud with the tribe of Benjamin (Judges 21:13), have shalom with each other.
There are hints in the Old Testament that shalom with God is to be an inner state that comes from trusting in him (Isaiah 26:3). However, the Old Testament also talks about Israel having peace with God through a covenant, and that peace is conditional. In the books that describe the founding of Israel and its history, we see how Israel’s people make a covenant with God where he provides peace and protection as long as they do not “turn to folly” (Psalm 85:8). When the nation strays from following God, he withdraws his shalom from them (Jeremiah 16:5). By the time that Jesus appeared on the scene, Israel had been ruled by other empires for centuries, so shalom with God had been absent for a while.
On a broader level, humanity lost peace with God when sin entered the world. From the moment that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, all of humanity became sinners (2 John 1:8). This put us in conflict with God. The “flesh,” in the sense of sinful desires, became what we follow (Romans 8:7-8). No human being, since Adam and Eve, has been righteous (Ecclesiastes 7:20), which means we are all in a state of rebellion against him. This lack of peace presented a dilemma that the Messiah came to solve.
How Does Jesus Bring Peace?
Much has been said about how the Israelites were expecting the Messiah to be a savior who rescued them from the Romans. If that were the case, the Messiah would bring peace by ending the reign of oppression and the string of failed rebellions. He would return Israel to its former national glory.
Jesus talked about peace on several occasions. During the Sermon on the Mount, he taught that peacemakers are blessed and will be called God’s sons (Matthew 5:9). At the same time, he warned his disciples that he had not come to bring peace to the world, that in fact, he would divide people (Matthew 10:34-36). Then, at the Last Supper, as he told his disciples that he would leave them soon, Jesus comforted them by saying, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). Clearly, the peace that Jesus offered was not typical.
As his followers learned, when Jesus died and then rose from the dead, he did not bring peace by overthrowing governments. Instead, he brought peace for Jews and Gentiles (Romans 10:12) by dying for them. He became a sacrificial lamb, dying for humanity’s sins once and for all (Hebrews 9:12). In doing so, he made peace between humanity and God (1 John 2:2). Therefore, everyone who believes in Jesus’ divinity and resurrection (Romans 10:9) achieves peace with God. Their sins are paid for, and they gain eternal life (John 3:16).
Advent Week 2 Prayer
One advantage of following an annual Christmas tradition is that it deliberately gives us time and space to think about Biblical themes we don’t always think about. It also presents a time to read Bible verses about that theme and give prayers on the subject. Here is an advent prayer about peace you can start using right now:
Lord Jesus, we are all tempted to live without peace. It is difficult for us to remember that our peace is ultimately found in our status as believers, like your children. Help us to see the times when we have lived without peace and forgive us for our transgressions. Set our minds on you, that we may remember you are the prince of peace, and our security comes from you alone. Teach us that this peace is inward, everlasting, and can exist regardless of our circumstances. In whatever way you believe is best, teach us how to live in that peace every day. We ask for that in your holy name, Amen.
You can also read Bible Study Tools’ collection of Verses about peace.
Photo credit: SWN/Bible Study Tools
G. Connor Salter is a writer and editor, with a Bachelor of Science in Professional Writing from Taylor University. In 2020, he won First Prize for Best Feature Story in a regional contest by the Colorado Press Association Network. He has contributed over 1,200 articles to various publications, including interviews for Christian Communicator and book reviews for The Evangelical Church Library Association. Find out more about his work here.
This article is part of our larger Christmas and Advent resource library centered around the events leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ. We hope these articles help you understand the meaning and story behind important Christian holidays and dates and encourage you as you take time to reflect on all that God has done for us through His Son, Jesus Christ!
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