From the St. Aiden’s Monastery blog, here’s a nice summary of what each week’s Advent candle symbolizes:
The Candles symbolize that Jesus is the Light of the World.
There are four candles, one for each Sunday leading to Christmas and a fifth candle for Christmas day. The four Sunday candles are usually tapers. There are variations in the colouring of the candles, often there are three purple and one pink candle. Occasionally, all of the candles are purple. The central candle is usually a large white pillar candle.
The purple represents repentance. The pink symbolizes joy. The central candle is called the Christ candle and is not lit until Christmas day. When you light the candle it is customary to read a few verses of scripture that relate to meaning of the candle. Often the person who lights the candle recites a short statement of belief and faith as the candle is lit and then everyone unites in prayer.
The First Candle (The Candle of Prophecy/Hope)
The first candle is sometimes called the candle of prophecy because it symbolizes the promises the prophets delivered as messages from God; promises that foretold Christ’s birth. Others consider the candle to be a symbol of the hope we have in Christ and so it is called the Hope candle.
The Second Candle (The Candle of the Way)
The second candle shows that Christ is the Way. Christians are lost in sin and Christ is the Light sent into the world to show them the way out of darkness.