November 16, 2006

Advent Wreath The season of Advent is the beginning of the church year. If you follow the lectionary readings for this season you will find that they are accounts of prophets proclaiming the coming of God’s kingdom and anticipation of the coming of the messiah. We re-live this anticipation through these texts, our music, and even the way creation enters more deeply into darkness until the passing of the winter solstice. History and Symbolism The Advent wreath has its roots in northern European pre-Christian practices where people sought the return of the sun in the darkest time of the year (at the winter solstice) by lighting candles and fires. By the middle ages, Christians used fire and light to represent Christ's coming into the world. Using this same symbolism, the Advent wreath developed a few centuries ago in Germany. The advent wreath signifies waiting and hopeful expectation, looking forward to both Christ’s birth and to Christ’s coming again at the end of time. The circular shape of the wreath represents eternal life. The evergreens signify the faithfulness of God and the lighted candles reminder us of the light of Christ in the world. Making an Advent Wreath Symbols of God's promise of life speak clearest when they are drawn directly from our daily experience and environment. Use natural materials to make a wreath such as evergreens, holly, laurel, or other green shrubs which retain their freshness. The size of the Advent wreath should be appropriate to the size of the worship space. The wreath should not draw attention away from the font, table, or ambo (pulpit), but it should be large enough to make a strong statement about the meaning of the season. It may be hung or placed on a table or stand. Candles There is no prescribed color for the candles. Four natural colored candles are always appropriate and symbolize the light for which we wait. Four deep purple candles, a sign of the penitential nature sometimes attributed to the season, may be appropriate. Congregations that use blue (symbolizing hope) as the liturgical color during Advent would be consistent to use blue candles. The older practice using a pink candle on the third Sunday in Advent is no longer consistent with current lectionaries. Lighting One candle of the wreath is lit each week in Advent. The candles may be lit simply before the service when other candles are lighted or as a part of the gathering. Prayer and song may accompany the lighting of the wreath. Home Devotions The Advent wreath is also appropriate for daily use in home devotions. The making of this wreath can be a family activity, using materials gathered from the yard or garden. Resources Briehl, Susan. Come Lord Jesus: Devotions for the Home. Advent/Christmas/Epiphany. Augsburg Fortress. Purchase a wreath or candles: Marklin Candle Design
John Mayer and Advent During the season of Advent waiting is a central theme. The community of Jesus’ time was waiting for the promised messiah to come. They were waiting for someone to deliver them from an oppressive political structure. There was unnecessary violence, moral religious laws trumping acts of love and justice and a veiled connection between the politically powerful and the religiously powerful. We know that Jesus was crucified by both the religious majority of his time in cahoots with the political ruler Pontius Pilot. We see politics and religion today being used in ways that go against God’s plan for us and creation. John Mayer in his song “Waiting On the World To Change” expresses frustration about the current situation and hope for something better. He begins by saying: me and all my friends we're all misunderstood they say we stand for nothing and there's no way we ever could now we see everything that's going wrong with the world and those who lead it we just feel like we don't have the means to rise above and beat it so we keep waiting waiting on the world to change we keep on waiting waiting on the world to change In this season of Advent, this season of waiting, what does this song say about us? John claims that he is not alone in being misunderstood and “waiting for the world to change”. What kind of waiting do people of faith do? What did our ancestors do while waiting for the messiah? Is there such a thing as active waiting? How does “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” resonate with John Mayer’s description of how he and all his friends are waiting? John goes on to say in the last verse of his song: and we're still waiting waiting on the world to change we keep on waiting waiting on the world to change one day our generation is gonna rule the population so we keep on waiting waiting on the world to change we keep on waiting waiting on the world to change This quote is very interesting: “our generation is gonna rule the population”? What kind of power do people of God have to bring about change in the world today? How does prayer fit into the picture? Is God involved at all in changing the world or do we put our trust in rulers? Do we put our trust in ourselves (“one day our generation is gonna rule the population”)? In response to this popular song what will we proclaim about how the people of God are waiting? O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

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