Candles, Characters, & Carols I

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Advent is the time of year when Christians prepare for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas. Advent begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving and climaxes to Christmas Day, December 25. Advent is similar to Lent, 40 days leading to Easter, in that a significant Christian holiday approaches. In order to fully experience the joy of Christmas [or Easter], spiritual preparation and reflection makes the difference between the holiday whizzing past in a tizzy or savoring the depth of remembering such important events.

The purpose of this blog series will be to reflect on the meaning behind the advent wreath candles- hope, peace, joy, love, & Christ, as well as looking at some characters in the Scriptural [Bible] Christmas narrative. Finally, each post will include a related, probably familiar, carol/poem for reflection. I hope you will trek with me on this journey to Bethlehem, to Jesus Christ.

A disclaimer- it is a tradition in my church for each family to gather in order to make an Advent wreath and receive a packet of devotional/family activities written by gifted church members. There is fantastic commentary and ideas in this material and I will pull from it regularly. Contact me if you would like more information on this.

This time last year, my family & I experienced our own private Advent. My nephew, the first grandchild of our immediate family, was due in December. I notified my professors that I may need to leave at a moment’s notice to join the birth & arrival of Baby Jacob, made a ‘to pack’ list for an overnight bag, and strategically had my phone on me at all times. I was ready. I anticipated the birth of our sweet boy. Ready or not here he comes, but I was ready. What are you doing to be ‘ready’ for Christmas? I don’t mean shopping, baking, party planning, travel plans, etc., though these can be important details. What are you currently doing each day & week to spiritually, mentally, physically, anticipate the annual celebration of the arrival of the Sweet Boy?

I have come across 2 accessible & helpful resources:

1)     Following the Star- [http://www.d365.org/followingthestar] sign up for a free daily ecumenical devotional during Advent here including Scripture, a devotional thought, & written prayer.

2)     The Upper Room- [http://www.upperroom.org/] is a daily devotional style magazine produced by the United Methodist Church. I have found it to be just the right length at night. Perhaps your local UMC congregation might have an extra printed copy or you can order online. There is an email subscription option, also: [http://devotional.upperroom.org/emaildevotional]

Let us be like the Innkeeper, in reality pressed & full, but still making room for Jesus. Christmastime is quite possibly the ‘busiest’ time of the year for most people, but let us be focused on the ‘reason for the season’- Jesus Christ.

Let us be like the Advent Wreath- with its evergreen branches in a circle representing the unending love of God for His people, the candles representing the light of Jesus Christ in the world, & the different colors coming together to make something beautiful.

“Jesus, devoted redeemer of all nations, has shone forth,

Let the whole family of the faithful celebrate the stories

The shining star, gleaming in the heavens,

makes him known at his birth and, going before,

has led the Magi to his cradle

Falling down, they adore the tiny baby hidden in rags,

as they bear witness to the true God by bringing a mystical gift”

– St. Hilary of Poitiers

“Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The LORD has spoken!”

A voice said, “Shout!” I asked, “What should I shout?” “Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the LORD. And so it is with people. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops! Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!”” [Isaiah 40:3-9]

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