An advent symbol of slowing + change
Big shout out to To Dance With God – if you like what follows, buy the book because she taught almost all of this. The quotes are hers.
The beginning of the Advent Wreath
Pre-Christian people, who lived in the far north, had a very different understanding of the seasons. Because they did not separate their religious experience from natural phenomenon, the retreat of the sun god was a worrisome experience: Is the day leaving us? Will the sun leave the earth all together? Will we be forced to live in darkness forever?
So, they "removed the wheels from their carts and wagons, festooned them with greens and lights, and brought them indoors to hang on their halls." As the sun retreated and the dark winter took hold, "they brought the wheels indoors as a sign of a different time, a time to stop and turn inward."
"They engaged the feelings of cold and fear and loss." And in this way, they wooed the sun-god, his light, and his comforting warmth back. By having the courage to stop, change seasons, wait, and engage the mystery of their own darkness, these people were able to recover hope.
As Christ came and the gospel spread north, the wheel ritual became infused with Christianity and the Advent Wreath was born. Although in many homes today the wreath has become quaint and cute decor, the advent wheel began as a symbol of changing seasons, yearning engaged, and an intentional slowing to wait.
Just for a second, what it would mean for us to reconnect with the ancient prescription for this Advent season and actually remove one of the tires from your car? Can you even entertain how much different this season would be if you did? Your daily routines would change. Certainly they would slow, maybe even halt.
Maybe you don’t have to remove a wheel from you car. Maybe there is something else that you could retire for the month, don with green, and light candles atop. Your laptop or iPhone? The to-do list on the fridge? It is fun and interesting to imagine, but of course the point is not to remove or do without any of these things.
Unlike Lent, Advent doesn’t feature “doing without.” Rather, it is a time to change gears, turn inward to your own crevices and shadowlands. The point is to “make holy” our slowing so that Christ can burst on the scene of your greatest needs – needs of which you have taken the time to be sensitively aware.
So what about it?
The Advent Wreath is not only a beautiful teaching tool for our children, the Advent Wreath is a reminder that this is the season to sacrifice our hustle and bustle. Advent is a time to put away our perfection, our achievement, and become vulnerable to our deepest longings.
On Christmas morning, I hope you will rise, having slowed yourself and taken this journey to engage your longing.
I hope that you will be able to engage an untarnished, full, and total joy of Christmas morning without an ounce of farcity or denial.
I hope that you will have used your advent wreath as a reminder to slow yourself and woo the Son-God back into your life.
As the light becomes greater and great with each candle, may your hope grow more wild and more promising.