Nov. 29, 2011
John 1:4-5, 9
In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.
A day or two before Advent began, my Mom had a ritual with us. We’d go into the woods of our farm and gather low-growing evergreens, bring them home and make two round wreaths. One wreath would be used for the Advent Wreath at church; the other for our family’s Advent Wreath. She was continuing a long-standing tradition from her family of making the special ever-green Advent Wreath. This circle of evergreen boughs reminds us of God’s forever love, a love that has no beginning and no end. Four candles – three purple and one pink – stand amid the greenery. A white candle stands in the center.
Advent happens during the time of year when daylight hours are shortening. In the few weeks before Christmas, we have the least amount of daylight of the year. In contrast, each week of Advent, we light an additional candle, bringing more light into the world. On Christmas Eve, we light the white candle in the center, the Christ candle, which reminds us that Jesus came as the light of the world.
While Advent Wreaths are common in churches, it’s a personal Advent Wreath in your home that I think can have great significance. It’s a way to share with your family the messages of Advent and Christmas. My family has always had one. Many years ago, my Mom gave my sisters and myself an Advent Wreath for Christmas so we could continue this tradition within our families. On the outside of the Advent Wreath we received are four words, the four words that traditionally the purple and pink candle represent: hope, peace, joy and love. Before mealtime on the Sundays of Advent and on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, it’s a big deal who gets to light the various candles.
Does your family have an Advent Wreath? If not, why not put together a simple one this Christmas? It need not be any more complicated than five votive holders, each with the appropriate colored votive candle. A little bit of artificial greenery on a plate with the candles is all it takes. (Yes, we no longer continue the tradition of the real evergreens of my childhood days. By Christmas Day, we had to be very careful that the greens didn’t get a spark on them!)
Another idea is an Advent Calendar of Kisses. Roll out a long strip of plastic wrap and line up 25 chocolate kisses one inch apart. Fold both sides of the plastic wrap over the chocolate. Cut 26 pices of curling ribbon (about 6” long each) and tie a knot between the kisses. Tie a longer ribbon at the top and hang from a doornob or hook. Beginning on December 1, exchange one kiss from your child or other family member for a “kiss” from the Advent calendar as you count down the days until Christmas together.
As the days get shorter and shorter until the winter solstace, an Advent Wreath reminds us that even in a dark and challenging world, Jesus is the light of the season and the light of the world. An Advent Wreath on your table is a wonderful reminder of who brings the best light into our world that so desperately needs it.