Christmas is just less than three weeks away, and it is time to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

This period is called Advent, which comes from the Latin “adventus” that means an arrival or visit. It is observed on four Sundays before Christmas Day.

An Advent wreath with three purple and one pink candles. 

In the Philippines, a Catholic country, the Advent season starts with the lighting of the Advent Wreath candles, one of the symbols of the season.

For the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the country, they start the celebration with the lighting of the temple lights.

Advent wreath-candle lighting

Christians celebrate Advent, which denotes the coming of Jesus into the world. They use the four Sundays and weeks of Advent to prepare and remember the real meaning of Christmas.

The lighting of the first of the four candles in the Advent wreath—three purple and one pink—started on November 28, the first Advent Sunday this year. The other candles are lit on succeeding Sundays leading up to Christmas.

A prayer is said while each candle is lit.

On the first and second Sundays, the two purple candles are lit; on the third Sunday, the pink and the two purple candles; and on the fourth Sunday, the last purple together with all the other candles.

Some Advent wreaths include a white candle, which symbolizes Christ, that is lit on Christmas Eve.

Each of the Advent Sunday represent the themes of the graces of hope, peace, joy and love.

Pope Francis, reflecting on the Gospel reading  on the first Sunday of Advent, which speaks about the Lord’s coming at the end of time, he said the faithful are invited to be hopeful as the Lord comes to save us and “we await Him with joy,” even in the midst of life’s trials and tribulations.

The Lord invites us to “stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand,” the pope said.

Philippine churches and chapels observe the Advent wreath candle-lighting tradition. Although many faithful also do so, Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao urged parishes and lay and youth leaders to promote and help encourage families to start the the tradition in their homes.

“I call on our parish priests, in particular, to do this promotion to our families, that is, to put up Advent Wreaths and do the accompanying prayer rituals,” Valles said a circular in early November.

“As we wait with joy and prepare for the celebration of Christmas, let us keep this beautiful tradition of displaying the Advent wreath in our homes to remind us of the eternity of God and of our eternal life in Christ,” he added.

The Church of Jesus Christ temple lighting

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Church) Philippine Area Presidency held its virtual temple lighting ceremony  at its temple grounds in Green Meadows, Quezon City, on November 27.

It was the  second year  the Church hosted its annual temple lighting virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Every year thousands of lights, as well as hundreds of smiles, illuminate the Manila Philippines Temple grounds to usher in the Christmas season,” said Elder  Taniela B. Wakolo of the Philippines Area Presidency, during the temple lighting.

The Church’s friends and guests graced the event. Among them were Sen. Grace Poe; Manila US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Heather Variava; Rev. Fr. Carlos Reyes, minister for Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs; Rev.  Fr. Richard James Babao, assistant minister for Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs;

 Atty. Tommy de Castro, action officer of the Third District of QC on behalf of Mayor Joy Belmonte; Stephanie Ching of the BusinessMirror; Dr. Pablito Baybado, secretary general of Religions for Peace Philippines; and Nita Cortez and Sister Melleniza of the Office of the Papal Nuncio.

In her message, Poe shared how she was delighted to witness the temple lighting ceremony.

She said: “Whenever we see the lit landscape of this temple, it signals to us one of the best reminders that we are approaching Christmas. …Tonight, even though there is darkness and hopelessness, these can be dispelled by the true light and love which emanate from our Savior Jesus Christ.”

Father Reyes delivered Cardinal Advincula’s inspiring message.

He shared: “We truly need to light the world with love during this time of  the pandemic. In the northern hemisphere, we celebrate Christmas during the winter solstice when the night is longest. Perhaps it is provident that we celebrate the first coming of the Savior during the longest and darkest night of the year. It sends a message that Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, comes into the darkest of our long night to be our comfort and our light.”

Speaking about the Church’s “Light the World” campaign, US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Variava expressed her  admiration for the Church’s efforts to encourage people to serve others.

«It is easy for people to get tired, to get worn down, and to wonder why we need to be strong [especially during this global pandemic]. But with service campaigns such as the ‘Light the World with Love’, [we are reminded]  that we do need to be a light to other people and to our communities,» she said.

In lieu of the annual countdown with interfaith friends and government leaders, the Church’s Philippines Area Presidency and their wives held a countdown on the temple grounds together with hundreds of  individuals and families on  Facebook  and  YouTube.

The  lighting of the  traditional  capiz  parol  was featured. Prerecorded messages and musical numbers were  among the highlights during the program, including Mikee Misalucha’s singing of “Light of the World” song, and special messages from government officials and interfaith representatives all over the country.

Among those who gave their messages were Sen. Ronald de la Rosa; Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan in Pangasinan;  Muntinlupa City Rep. Rufino Biazon; Laguna Gov. Ramil Hernandez; Bulacan Gov. Daniel Fernando;

Las Piñas City Mayor Imelda Aguilar; Marikina City Vice Mayor Marion Andres; Urdaneta City ABC President Michael Brian Perez; Quezon City Barangay Bagbag Chairman Richard Ambita; Panabo Police Station OIC P/Lt. Col. Atty. Verna Limbo-Cabuhat;

The Salvation Army-Urdaneta Corps Maj. Norberto Orpilla; broadcast journalist Kara David; BusinessMirror Senior Editor Lyn B. Resurreccion; Fr. Angel Marcelo Pastor of Basilica Immaculada Conception in Batangas City; and Assistant Division Superintendent Gregorio Mueco of the Schools Division in Quezon.

Elder  Steven R. Bangerter, First Counselor of the Philippines Area Presidency, expressed his appreciation for all those who participated in the event.

“We hope you feel our love and our prayers for you. And especially, we hope that you feel the love of our Savior within your hearts and within your lives,” he said.

Images courtesy of The Church photo and Wikimedia Commons

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