My thoughts (Terri Brown):
On Christmas Day, many people around the world celebrate the birth of Christ in various ways. Christian families pass traditions down from generation to generation, and to this day people, young and old, delight in the ceremonies. And many of these traditions and ceremonies have one aspect in common: Light.
So as we prepare again to celebrate the birth of Christ this year, we take time in the season of Advent to delight in the readiness process, and we begin making preparations for celebrating the birthday of Jesus with light to pave the way.
Psalm 119:105-106 helps ready us for the process with mention of the light. It tells us, “Thy Word is a lamp unto thy feet and a light unto my path” (KJV). This takes me back to my childhood years, when I was enraptured by these four weeks which lead to Christmas, as I was always amazed by all the sparkle and shine and was drawn into the excitement of the day and time when everything stopped for that moment when the light shone on the baby Jesus who was the Savior — The One True Light.
I grew up in a large Catholic family. Ceremony and tradition was profuse with rich elegance and display. I can recall how the Advent wreath and Nativity set were kept in special storage places with other religious artifacts. Candles and ceremonial holders trimmed in gold and wrapped in tissue or white cloth were well protected and swaddled and carefully carried, as the swaddling on the Baby Jesus himself.
The wreath itself may appear different but a basic pattern is found in many homes and churches. The Advent wreath is a circle representing eternity — the hope of eternal life. Four candles surrounded a white candle in the middle which symbolizes Christ. So on the four Sundays of Advent a new candle is lit, and on Christmas Eve the center candle is lit as the anticipated day arrives. We keep Christ at the center of Christmas where the Light and the Word belong.
Each candle represents a different aspect of Christ to center on. Most importantly, the shift from darkness to light as the word is revealed with Christ coming as representative. But the hope this light brings, the grace of God and newness of life, is often considered with the lighting of the candles. The meanings and traditions may slightly differ, but the waiting and finally the joy of the coming of Jesus is celebrated; and the preparation time gives family and congregations a time to spend together in prayer and devotion, and to anticipate the light.
Psalm 119:106 states, “I have sworn and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgment.” So while many of us use the Advent season as a time of expectation and considering change, we are reminded how the birth of Jesus renews our trust in the Lord and we may retrace our steps led by Jesus — The Light.
Thought for the day: While we proceed through this season of Advent and prepare for Christmas, let us look for the light of Jesus and contemplate what this means in our lives.
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.