Making Space for Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace this Christmas
by Kate Sweet
Pastor of Spiritual Care & Development
There is a familiar Christmas song that says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” But for many of us, the Christmas season also brings a sense of harried preparations, packed schedules, and endless to-do lists. In these busy days, we often end up feeling pretty Scrooge-like, rather than “full of good cheer.” Taking a moment to slow down, reflect, and pray can help balance the go-go-go attitude that it is so easy to adopt in December.
The season of Advent, which spans the four weeks leading up to Christmas, helps us do this hard work of slowing down and making space. This is meant to be a time of preparation—not just for gift-giving and family gatherings—but for the coming of the Christ child. We remember the birth of the baby Jesus, notice God's presence in our life today, and look forward with hope to Christ’s anticipated reign of peace, when God will make all things new. The invitation of Advent is to slow down, reflect, and open our hearts to receive Christ’s love.
One great way to do this is by using an Advent Wreath at home. The Advent Wreath is a practice used to help us focus prayerfully on God’s promises to us in Christ. Traditionally, the Advent Wreath is made out of evergreen boughs, to symbolize the promise of everlasting life in Christ, and a love that is renewed for us every day. It is circular, and in times past was sometimes worn as a crown--a reminder that God’s reign will never end.
There are four candles within the wreath, demonstrating that the light of Christ has come into the world, and continues to shine in our lives today. One candle is lit every week, until after the four weeks all of the candles have been lit. Each candle symbolizes a different promise we have in Christ: Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace. The lighting of the candle is usually accompanied by scripture, a reflection, and prayer.
You might be accustomed to lighting Advent Candles at church, but it can also be a very powerful practice for families to do together, too. If you would like to learn more about how you might be able to use an advent wreath at home, check out this resource from UMC Discipleship ministries.
Although we’re already two weeks into Advent, it’s not too late to start! Take the time this season to slow down and prepare your heart to receive the Good News of Christ’s arrival in our world.
If you’re not up for an Advent wreath this year, I encourage you to check out some other Advent resources. Here are a few good ones to explore: