Please know that among the MANY things for which I am thankful is YOU! Thank you for staying connected--especially these days.
Advent this weekend!
That's right--no sooner do you put away the turkey leftovers
and it's time to think of Advent
This year, of all years, we want and need to keep a right focus in our homes as we prepare for Christmas. What better way to do that than praying with an Advent Wreath. If you've not had time between pumpkin pies and stuffing, to think of an Advent wreath, here's a tried-tested-and-approved, simple way to make a kid-friendly one at home.
Years ago, I tired of evergreen branches that browned and littered and candles that burned down before the last one even got lit. Then there's the risk of an open flame on the family dinner table. My solution was simple and I use it still, even as a grown-up!
In the video below, I show you how to make it and below is a prayer you can use to pray it.
Different people can take different roles--even the youngest can ask, "who do we light...?" Another can answer, someone can say the prayer, and of course, yet another can begin it all by lighting the candles. If it's just adults you may want to omit #1.
Week 1, Hope
#1: Why do we light one candle?
#2: We light one candle to remind us of HOPE. We have hope because God promised to send the world a savior.
#3: Christ, you are our hope in world in need of hope. This Advent, help us slow down, listen to your voice, and focus on what is most important. We place our hope in you as we prepare our hearts to celebrate your coming on Christmas. Amen.
Week 2, Peace
#1: Why do we light two candles?
#2: The first candle reminds us of Hope. The second candle reminds us of PEACE because Jesus comes as the Prince of Peace.
#3: Christ, you entered our world on Christmas as the Prince of Peace. This Advent, as we strive to become the-best-version-of-ourselves, fill us with a deep and abiding peace. Help us share that peace with everyone we encounter, especially those who need it most. Amen.
Week 3, Joy
#1: Why do we light three candles?
#2: The first candle reminds us of hope. The second candle reminds us of peace. The third candle reminds us of JOY because of the joy we feel knowing Jesus is coming.
Christ, help us focus on you during this busy season. May we stay aware of the joy you bring into our lives. We want to find you in the everyday moments and come with hearts of gratitude to your manger on Christmas. Amen.
And why is the candle pink? As a sign of Joy! We are half-way to Christmas. This Sunday is, in fact, known as Gaudete Sunday from the Latin word for joy.
Week 4, Love
#1: Why do we light four candles?
#2: The first candle reminds us of hope. The second candle reminds us of peace. The third candle reminds us of joy. The fourth candle reminds us of LOVE because God is love.
#3: Christ, may the light of your love always shine in our hearts. As Christmas draws closer, we marvel at your great love for us. Let your love transform every aspect of our lives and touch everyone we encounter. Our hearts are open to you, Jesus. Amen.
Vicarious joy can be surprisingly satisfying! My friend had just shared that she would get to see a co-worker's newborn daughter today. Enough time and mutual isolation had passed that it was deemed safe. She was looking forward to it--not surprising. But what did surprise me is how excited I was for her! I fairly skipped when she told me. What a wonderful thing to have happen in her day! What a wonderful thing to have happen at all!
Vicarious Joy!--the very real phenomenon that is, I suspect, a consequence of the isolation we have known during Covid-19. These days, someone else's good news goes way beyond, "I'm happy for you." Someone else's small pleasures are occasion for our own celebration.
This summer my teen/young adult grandchildren bought a jaunty little jeep ice cream truck and spent a Covid-safe summer delivering frozen fun to the neighborhood. Not only were the children made happy but most everyone who heard the story delighted with them!
Just last week a friend told me of being at a park and watching the children at play. A five-year-old girl was struggling to master the monkey bars with her mother's hands at the ready to catch her if she slipped. He watched as she swung back and forth and then pitched her tiny frame forward, reached out, and grabbed the bar ahead. She did this repeatedly, brow wrinkled in concentration, pink tongue pressed between her lips. Each attempt required more exertion than the one before, but each catch of the bar became more steady with practice. When she finally achieved that final bar, my friend leapt to his feet and applauded. His delight was nearly as great as that of the parent and child.
It was the kind of thing that normally he'd have smiled at and enjoyed, but this time, he was all in! Her victory was somehow his as well. He did not even feel sheepish in his exuberant display. He walked home with a smile on his face and a spring in his step.
You know how being hungry makes food taste so good? Some of it is that. But the vicarious nature of this joy has less to do with being without things and more to do with being connected. Apparently, there's nothing like a global pandemic to make us realize we are all in this thing called life together!
It may be different, but Christmas will come. And true to its purpose, Advent will also arrive--but it will be no small thing to prepare us for this particular Christmas. Many of us are sadly focused on all that we will be "without" this year. It was for just such a time as this that the promise was given:
Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a son,
and they shall call his name Emmanuel, "God with us." (Mt. 1:23)
This we know. Emmanuel, "God-with-us," has every intention of arriving in our lives, even as we so need God to do. There is nothing lacking in God's promise, but sometimes we fall short in believing that promise. Walter Bruggeman says it well,
Give us the grace and the impatience
to wait for your coming to the bottom of our toes,
to the edge of our finger tips. (poem at end)
Make no mistake about it. It is not about our mustering up the enthusiasm necessary for Christ's birth. It is that Christ waits upon our awaiting.
We have been changed by this year we have experienced. Let us bring our changed self, our deep need, and our expectation to this coming season. Emmanuel awaits.