Be a Light: Living Christmas through Advent by Father Steven LaBaire

father steven labaireI am pleased to present this guest post from Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

The Advent wreath, located on the right side of the sanctuary is a centuries-old Christian tradition.

Christine McIntosh Advent wreath completed, Flickr Creative Commons
Christine McIntosh Advent wreath completed, Flickr Creative Commons

The wreath itself is rich in symbolism: Evergreens signify undying life; life even amidst the barrenness of winter.

The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning and no end, symbolizes the eternity of God, and everlasting life found in Christ.

The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent.

Three candles are violet and one is rose. The violet candles represent the color of the sky before sunrise; a sign of hope and a new beginning.

The rose candle lit on the 3rd Sunday of Advent, signifies the joy that hope and a new beginning bring.

The progressive lighting of the candles expresses light overcoming darkness; the light of Christ conquering whatever is contrary to love, mercy and compassion.

Of course, the wreath is meant to signify what Christ calls us to do: Bring light to wherever there is darkness.

Darkness is not confined to San Bernadino, California or Paris, or to the hearts of those who would wish us or anyone harm.

All kinds of shadows and shades of darkness can be found around us:

  • In the home where a child is beaten by hands or by hurtful words;
  • In the office where injustices and dishonesty are overlooked in the name of profit;
  • In the loveless marriage where partners are deaf to the needs of the one they promised to love and cherish;
  • In the residence where the elderly waste away, abandoned by their families;
  • On the playing field sidelines where the push to win the game at all costs, crushes a child’s feelings;
  •  Among friends when an addiction is never addressed;
  •  In our mouths when we speak criticism without being willing to help in the solution;
  • In cyberspace when a 14 year feels as if her reputation has been destroyed;
  • In popular culture, when prayer is mocked and faith is labeled as a “weakness of the intellect.”
  • In that family, where the gay son has been disowned and told that he does not belong;
  • Or, in a parish, when numbers of people and the almighty dollar are more important than fidelity to what Christ taught.
martinak15 83/365 Light in the Darkness, Flickr Creative Commons
martinak15 83/365 Light in the Darkness, Flickr Creative Commons

None of us are strangers to shadows. We pass through them every day.

Advent beckons us to bring light to wherever there is darkness, whatever be the shade.

How are you being called to bring  “light” to someone, somewhere?

Pray for an increase of light. Pray for the nerve (and for the energy) to be that light.

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Five minutes around the Advent Wreath can give new (quiet) meaning to Christmas

My habit every Christmas is to spend a few minutes each morning in front of the Advent wreath on our dining room table. For those of you not familiar with this Roman Catholic tradition, one sets up a simple wreath with four candles in the middle. Three are purple and one is pink. The candles correspond to the four Sundays of Advent: each week an additional candle is lit. The purple represents a heart turning back to God in repentance (repentance meaning “turning”) while the pink represents rejoicing.

advent wreath

Each morning I light the number of candles appropriate for the week of Advent, read a simple set of prayers and/or scripture readings, sing a verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and eat my breakfast before heading off to work. It does wonders to calm down the noise of Christmas and help me focus on the real meaning – the coming of Christ, the first time as a babe, and the second time at the end of the world. It’s a time of rebirth of Jesus in the heart.

o radiant dawnThis year I am using O Radiant Dawn: 5-Minute Prayers Around the Advent Wreath by Lisa Hendey. This book is geared for use with families but can certainly be used as an individual devotion as well. Using scripture, spoken prayer and questions for pondering, O Radiant Dawn is a wonderful companion for Advent.

Quiet prayers, quiet music, quiet prayers. A time to ponder what it means to be human, for God to condescend to us to become human and to love us so much that He would do that for us.

Much to think about indeed!

This song always puts me in the mood; it’s “Lo, How a Rose E’ere Blooming” from my Wait with Me CD:

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