Saturday, December 21, 2013

Candles and Christmas

Candles are such an important part of the Christmas celebration to me. When I was a little girl, my favorite part of Christmas was our advent wreath with four Christmas candles. My mom had enjoyed this same tradition in her childhood. My grandfather Walter Seiter had immigrated to the United States from Germany as a young man. My grandmother did everything could to keep his German heritage alive for her children. One of the German Christmas traditions she adopted was the Advent Wreath.

Every Sunday in December, the family would gather around the advent wreath. The first Sunday in December they would light one candle. Then they would sing Christmas carols, tell Christmas stories and read from the Bible. The second Sunday of advent they would light two candles and so forth until the Sunday before Christmas all four candles would be light.

Tomorrow we will be lighting the fourth candle on our advent wreath and Christmas will soon be here. I love to look at my children's faces in the light of the candles. I love the peaceful, reverence that falls over us when we turn off the lights and light each one. I love how we linger after the singing and reading is finished and how the night stretches out before us, still and long. I love how everything slows down. It almost feels like we have stepped back in time, even when we Skype our oldest daughter in Virginia when it is time for our wreath each week. It is a cherished moment of peace in a busy season.

I was excited to read this essay by one of my students who shared his family's candle tradition.

(Written by Ethan)
After we're all ready for bed we have special candles that we light as my mom reads about Jesus's birth from the Bible.  We have different candles that represent different people.  We have a special tray that all the candles sit on.  The three wise men are a royal purple candles and there are three tan candles for the shepherds.  There are two skinny gold pillars  for the angles.  Mary and Joseph are both white candles and Baby Jesus is a little white votive candle.  We light each candle as Mom reads about it.  At the end of the story we blow out all the candles except for the Jesus candle and we talk about how Jesus is the Light of the world. Then we use the Baby Jesus candle to relight all the candles and sing Silent Night.

Isn't that the sweetest tradition? I love to pray by candlelight. I love the feeling of closeness it gives me to God and to his son. All the material trappings seem to fall away in the simple light of a candle flame. If you haven't done so, try lighting some candles and gathering your family around you this Christmas.

Have you read The Christmas Candle by Max Lucado or seen the movie? I love this story and even though I haven't (yet) seen the movie, I think it will be worth it if it is half as good as the book.

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