An Aotearoa Advent Circle


The Aotearoa Advent Circle is an arrangement made of shell necklaces and paua shells with five candles, four around the circle and one in the centre. It’s inspired by the traditional Advent Wreath, which was invented in Germany by a village pastor helping his flock to count down the days to Christmas. In Europe the Forest was the place of adventure, quest and danger. The evergreen branches of pine trees symbolised the faithfulness of God’s love and the candles showed the light of Christ.

But we live in Aotearoa, it’s summer time, everything is green, and using traditional pine branches in an Advent wreath seems a little odd. So, here is an Advent circle instead, with symbols drawn from the Ocean instead of the Forest. This is how you can interpret it. 

The circle reminds us of God. A circle has no beginning or end, neither has God. God is for ever. 

The shells remind us of the oceans. The water goes right around our globe touching every continent. God’s love is as wide as the ocean, high as the sky, deep as the deepest sea and nobody is ever left out. 

Candles remind us that Jesus is the light. As with the traditional wreath, lighting one more candle each week heightens the sense of expectation. The candle in the middle is like a birthday candle for Baby Jesus. 

Paua shells gleam and shine like the stars of the Anchor – the Southern Cross – ngā whetu o te Punga. The constellations guided the Māori navigators across te Moana nui a Kiwa, as the promises of God guide us through the darkness of our lives. 

Tūmanako. We light one candle on the first Sunday of Advent, and this is called the candle of Hope or sometimes the candle of prophecy. 

Rangimarie. We light two candles on the second Sunday of Advent, and this is called the candle of Peace. The angels sang about peace on earth. 

Harikoa. We light three candles on the third Sunday of Advent, and this is called the candle of Joy. The angels told the shepherds that Jesus birth was joyful news for everybody. 

Aroha. We light four candles on the fourth Sunday of Advent, and this is called the candle of Love. Christmas shows us how much God loves us all. 

We light the candle in the middle on Christmas Eve when the baby was born.

(Thanks to Adrienne Thompson for this resource idea)


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