The First Sunday of Advent:Doing it All Wrong


Photo by Kristen Allen

So it begins. My Advent is off to a rather inauspicious start.

Last year, inspired by my studies of Celtic Christianity, and some blossoming friendships with women who are far more crafty than I am, I made an Advent wreath out of evergreen clippings from my garden. It was a small project that I found to be quietly meaningful.

I thought I would do the same thing this year.

It was with a happy heart that I took my clippers and 5-gallon pail out into my yard yesterday. I gathered holly, juniper, yew, boxwood, and winterberry. I spread most of the juniper and yew on my mantle and bookcases, as an evergreen backdrop for my collections of nutcrackers and nativity scenes. I also filled a tin bucket used for collecting maple sap with some holly and the winterberry to bring some holiday cheer into my bedroom.

Now, I was ready to put my Advent wreath together.

I pulled out the nifty swirled glass dish that a former student gifted me. I lined it with juniper, filled the edges with holly and holly berries, and covered the gaps with boxwood. Now for the candles. I head to the closet where I store the candles. I can only find three candle holders, and no taper candles. Sigh.

I grab my coat and head to the dollar store. They have no candle holders suitable for tapers, and while they have dozens of candles, the only tapers they have are brown or sickly yellow. I head next door to the discount store. No luck.

I try another store today, and again I strike out. Plenty of candles. No tapers. Who would have thought that taper candles were out of fashion?!

I was increasingly upset, because it’s the start of Advent, and I dared say to you all that I would write about my experiences through this season, and here I am having not gone to church this morning, and now I cannot even find candles for my Advent wreath, and one day in I am already failing, and…

I fled to our home office and began puttering (and pouting). A while later I was called downstairs. My husband, knowing just what to do for me, had put up the Christmas tree, strung it with lights, and set the angel on top. Around the base of the tree, he wrapped the beautiful, hand-quilted tree skirt his sister made for us when we first got married. He pulled out the boxes of ornaments, grinned at me, and simply said, “Your turn.” I decorated our Christmas tree with the antique glass bulbs that were his grandparents’, and the handcrafted ornaments our children made when they were tinies, and the oddball collection of decorations that we have been accumulating over the past thirty years together. Each one a memory. Each one a blessing. Each one a prayer.

And then I was ready to come back to my Advent wreath.  Bucking traditions and protocols, I used what I had. I put a white pillar candle in the center. It is surrounded by 3 forest green votive candles and one white votive candle that I got during the trip I made to the Yankee Candle Village the morning Mary first came to my home to meet me in person. They smell wonderful, and they remind me of the truly delightful visit we shared. To complete my wreath, I added a truly lovely blown-glass bird. I have a thing about birds. For me, they represent freedom and lightness and now, here in my wreath, the Holy Spirit.

It doesn’t look anything like the Advent wreaths I’ve known. It doesn’t even look anything like the Advent wreath I intended to create. I find that it feels like one, though. As I lit the first candle—and the center, “Jesus candle,” because, well, I’ve already thrown tradition out the window, and figured inviting Jesus to my meditations could not be a bad thing—I was filled with a lightness I did not expect after getting everything wrong.

When it came down to it, I ended up where I was supposed to be, quiet and contemplative. My preparations did not look like I expected or wanted them to, but they still made the way—and isn’t that the point of Advent?

My readings for this evening’s meditation:

Lectionary for the First Sunday of Advent

A Reflection on Hanukkah




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