Published in St James’ Exchange, December 2022
An Advent wreath usually has five candles, one for each week of the season leading up to Christmas, and one for Christmas Day. The directions in our prayer books say… well, nothing much. A small mention in the BAS of what to do at evening prayer or evensong, and a little more in the section called “Home Prayers.” But other than that, not a peep.
I cast my mind back to 1985 when the BAS was published. If memory serves, we had a wreath with candles in church. As a server, I remember lighting them, but I don’t remember a prayer or a song or anything special, really. It was at home where we said a special prayer, lit a candle every night at dinner, and marked the passing of the weeks.
It was at home that I felt a building sense of anticipation, that Christmas was coming. The tree and decorations around the house. Making a list for Santa, or grandparents, of what we wanted for Christmas. A shopping trip to Bayshore where we teamed up to buy presents for siblings.
But it was at home that I learned to pray and patiently mark time in waiting, rather than rush into ‘the Christmas Spirit’ immediately after Remembrance Day. It was at home I learned the values of Advent faith. To be patient in hope despite the anxiety that surrounds us. To trust that the final outcome is God’s peace on earth. I’m glad I learned to pray at home. That came in handy over the last few years of a pandemic.
You’ll find resources for lighting an Advent wreath at home at www.stjamescarletonplace.ca/advent and a handout is available at the church. The short prayer with a box around it is more than enough, especially on busy nights. It can be said silently by yourself or shared with a partner. Or you can make church happen at home by extending prayers to include grace, intercessions, the Lord’s Prayer and hymns. If you have a favorite Advent hymn or song, let me know.
We have some Advent wreath kits at the church if you don’t have one at home. Speak with me on Sunday or check with the office through the week.
On Christmas Day, the prayers change to:
Unto us a child is born.
Unto us a Son is given.
O God, your love was so great for us that you gave us your Son to shine out in our darkness. Help us to make that love known to all the world, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Let this be the prayer that carries us through to Christmas and beyond, whatever that looks like this year. But trust me, it will mean a lot more if you wait for it and get yourself ready first.