“Tradition!” sings Tevye in the “Fiddler on the Roof” opener, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDtabTufxao). Tradition is the explanation for how the people of Anatefka keep their balance – in life as they scratch out a living like a fiddler on a roof. “Because of our traditions, everyone of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do.” Between Thanksgiving and Christmas is one of the most tradition-laden times of the year for many and especially for Christians. We call this time Advent, or The Coming. For four weeks we remember that Jesus came in the manger, comes to us today as the Holy Spirit, and promises to come again. The reality of history, of present experience and of future promise keeps us balanced in our daily walk.
The Advent Wreath marks off this first four weeks of the Christian year when we prepare our hearts for Christmas. Originally it was a time for new converts to prepare for baptism and church membership. In the 1800s the Advent Wreath was invented to help children visualize the answer to their question, “How much longer?” That feels similar to a question that plagues us today- how much longer this isolation, how much longer till elections are settled, how much longer must we wait for… the proposal, the pay raise, the contract…?
The wreath is round representing that God is eternal and so his promises are true. The wreath was made out of green branches; green representing life, eternal life that comes with Jesus. Four candles represent the four weeks before Christmas. Colors of the candles have varied but often they are three purple with one pink. Some put a central white candle called the Christ candle to be lit on Christmas Eve or day. Usually each week has a theme: love, peace, joy and love for virtues we want in our lives, or they may follow character themes like prophecy, shepherds, Mary and Joseph, and the angels. Each Sunday families gather and parents teach their children. Songs are sung. Questions answered and stories read. We will follow the themes of the Advent wreath in our pondering this month.
So as we start this journey, ponder what traditions form the foundation for your life and help you “know who you are and what God expects of you”. Perhaps there are prayers that ground your faith or favorite scriptures like the 23rd Psalm. Perhaps there are favorite parables or truths that you find yourself returning to in Scripture. Traditions are important. They help define us. What traditions are you trying to pass on in your family?
Candle 1 of the Advent Wreath is the Hope Candle. Prophesy gives hope. We will look at how each gospel writer started his gospel and see how the role of prophecy brings hope for each. Our world needs hope right now as we struggle with life. Thank you for joining me on this journey through Advent! Blessings.