Themes for Advent

Many Christians like to associate each week of Advent – and hence each candle in the Advent wreath – with a particular theme. A common set of themes is Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, so you might hear about the “hope candle,” the “peace candle,” and so on.

But themes are as varied as the families and churches who observe them. If you want to follow a theme for each week of Advent, here are some things to think about.

What are others in your church doing?

The journey through Advent to Christmas is even more joyous when done in community. Ask friends and other families in your church how they are observing Advent. Your church may even select particular themes for the season.

Be inspired by Scripture

Many traditional churches use a lectionary, a collection of Scripture readings that correspond to the Church Calendar. The readings follow a three-year cycle (called Year A, Year B, and Year C) and include passages from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the New Testament, and the Gospels. 

The lectionary for Advent follows the pattern of the season. The first two weeks focus on prophecy, repentance, the last days, and the return of Christ. Lighter in tone, the second two weeks emphasize joy, the birth of Christ, and the fulfillment of God’s promises to His people. As you journey through Advent, choose themes that reflect the Scriptures you’re reading. 

You can incorporate these readings into your Advent traditions, too. For example, as you light the Advent wreath each night, say a prayer and read a passage from the lectionary for that week. Protestant churches use the Revised Common Lectionary, available through the Vanderbilt Divinity Library. We've collected the lectionaries for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany at our Prayers & Scripture page.

Use your imagination!

With a little creativity and planning, you can design your own themes for Advent and accentuate different biblical truths during the season. Here are just two examples:

  • Each week, highlight one of the songs from Luke’s Nativity account: the Song of Mary (Luke 1:46-55), the Song of Zechariah (Luke 1:67-79), the Song of the Angels (Luke 2:14), and the Song of Simeon (Luke 2:28-32). 
  • Make it fun for kids: let each week of Advent represent a different set of characters in the Nativity story: for example, Magi, Angels, Shepherds, and Jesus’s family.

The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.