This time of year is always bittersweet for me. Obviously the holidays are generally regarded as joyful seasons; we give thanks in November (when this penned) for God’s continuing provision and then prepare for the most joyful birthday celebration of all, the birth of our Lord Jesus. It is a time for gathering together with family and loved ones, a time to set aside diets and enjoy a season full of feasts. Memories of Christmases past are warmly revisited as our own children and/or grandchildren discover the wonders of the season.
The bittersweet part is this is the time of year my dad passed away. I am not alone as many of you have watched relatives and friends go “home for the holidays.” What makes it possible to celebrate, of course, is that I know where my dad is, as do those of you whose loved ones died “in the Lord.” I know for a certainty that my dad still sees me, and that soon I will be reunited with him. I don’t know how those without faith manage the grief and loss, but it is the “reason for the season,” Jesus, that facilitates my joy and his Spirit is the balm for my hurt at missing Dad.
But for many it is different; for many it is a season of despair and heartache. For some it will be their first holidays without a loved one. This year has been especially cruel as Covid restrictions have often prevented loved ones from gathering around a dying family member, or to join hands at a funeral service. I think especially of my friend who lost her husband this year but was unable to host a funeral, wake, or any other memorial. Others, also, who struggle with depression and loneliness – divorced parents who don’t have the kids that week, widow(er)s and those for whom memories of childhood are not happy ones. Our ability to celebrate only reinforces their depression and isolation.
This year, if you are so blessed to see the holidays as the joyous time they are intended to be, take a moment to look around. I bet a co-worker, classmate or someone in your life might not be where you are, and that is when you get to share the gift of Jesus. Take the time to reach out and break through the isolation this season so often brings, and be Christ in the flesh to someone who is hurting and alone. In so doing, you might discover another blessing this season has to offer.
May your heart be filled with the love of Jesus this season and always!
II Timothy 1:11
THE ADVENT WREATH
The Advent Wreath is made of EVERGREENS, a symbol of the promise of everlasting life. They are formed into a CIRCLE with no beginning or end to remind us that God is eternal, has always been and ever shall be. FOUR CANDLES, for the four Sundays of Advent, are used, either BLUE or PURPLE in color. Blue is the color of expectation and reflects the anticipation of the season. Purple is the color of penitence, helping us remember to be contrite for all those behaviors and thoughts which separate us from God. Whether blue or purple are used, on the third Sunday a ROSE candle may be used. The rose candle represents joy creeping into the penitential season as we come nearer to the birth of our Lord. A WHITE candle is added on Christmas Eve and the “Christ” candle represents the purity of Christ and our joy on his appearing. Below you will find a simple Advent service for individuals or families built around the Advent wreath. Please use it as part of your Advent spiritual discipline.
A Blessing for the Home Advent Wreath
O God, by your word all things are made holy. I/we offer this Advent wreath, which I/we ask you to bless. Help me/us to use it to prepare my/our hearts for the great coming of your Son, and help me/us receive him into my/our hearts with joy. I/we ask this in the name of my/our beloved Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. AMEN.
A Simple Advent Service
The Prophets’ Candle: The first candle lit on the Advent wreath is called the Prophet’s Candle. It reminds us of the prophets who spoke of God’s word to the people during the hundreds of years before Jesus was born.
Prayer: Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; though him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. AMEN
Sun. Matt. 21:1-11 Mon. Psalm 2 Tues. 2 Peter 1:12-21
Wed. Psalms 13 & 14 Thurs. Amos 4:6-13 Fri. Matt. 22:1-14
Sat. Jude 17-25
The Bethlehem Candle: The second candle to be lit reminds us that the baby Jesus was born in the city of Bethlehem.
Prayer: Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way of our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. AMEN.
Sun. Luke 1:57-68 Mon. Matt. 22:23-33 Tues. Psalm 28
Wed. Amos 8:1-14 Thurs. Psalm 37:1-18 Fri. Matt. 23:27-39
Sat. Psalm 42
The Shepherd’s Candle: The third candle lit on the Advent wreath is to honor those who were the first to hear the good news. If a pink candle is used in the wreath it is lighted this week.
Prayer: Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory now and for ever. AMEN
Sun. John 5:30-47 Mon. Zech. 1:7-17 Tues. Psalm 47
Wed. Rev. 4:1-8 Thurs. Matt. 25:1-13 Fri. Psalm 40
Sat. Matt. 25:31-46
The Angels’ Candle: The fourth candle lit on the Advent wreath is the candle of joy and love, a reminder of the grace given to all who accept the Christ Child.
Prayer: Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever. AMEN
Sun. Rev. 12:1-10 Mon. Psalm 62 Tues. Luke 1:26-38
Wed. Luke 1:39-56
The Christ Candle: A White candle is now placed in the center of the wreath and lit.
Prayer: O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true light; grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. AMEN
Scripture Readings: Luke 2:1-20