It seems we literally just finished the last lines of Auld Lang Syne and 2019 made its entry into our lives. Yet, here we are mere weeks away from 2020. The world is moving by fast. With constant connectivity to friends, world news, and often times work, some days seem to literally become blurry blips in our lives, like trees zipping by a car window. For the most part, we seem to be keeping up with it. We are in fact working more, doing more, going more, and buying more. And yet, we seem to rarely make the time to just be still and catch our breaths. We even know it and complain about it! That’s why observing Advent has become such a central part of my December worship. Rather than throwing all of “Christmas” into my proverbial holiday-season pot on December 1st (or November 1st, for some), I have learned to specifically carve out time each and every day to stop, breathe, pray, and listen. And often, I can almost hear God reply, “Just relax, Eric. It’s ok to say no to that gathering, etc. It’s ok for you to put your decorations up when you want to and how you want to. It’s fine for you to buy less gifts, and instead buy ones that have more of a meaning and purpose.”
Advent calendars help as a daily reminder, and my sons have always enjoyed putting up the one the Chapel sends each year in their room. But what I have really gained spiritual strength and personal peace through is tending to my Advent wreath. It has only been about a four year tradition for me now (since I joined the Chapel and the Episcopal Church), but I have enjoyed learning about the traditions and continue to change the way I do mine each year. I found an antique centerpiece, which consists of four candle holders that each have figurines of the Three Wise Men, an angel, a shepherd with sheep, and then Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in His manger. These all converge together to form a circle. Into each, I place tall tapers consisting of three violet and one pink. In the center, I place a smaller white candle for Christmas morning. For the actual wreath, I follow the method where the first Sunday in Advent, I make one out of dead and dry foliage from my yard and garden. The following weekend, I replace that one with a simple green wreath that looks like it’s made of ferns. The third weekend, when we light the Rose Candle, I will add a few little bits of something red, like berries. And finally, on the fourth Sunday, I will add golden pinecones and a few more bits of fresh pine. By this point, the wreath looks bright, festive, and really has a calming effect at night when all four candles are aglow. I find this spot a perfect place to end a long day in quiet prayer and worship.
So, regardless of your method, I hope that you will create some quiet time for prayer and reflection this Advent season. Who knows? When you’re alert and silent, you might just hear from God, Who as Father Ben says in his benediction, “….is just a whisper.” Happy Advent and a Merry Christmas from my family to yours.