by Lynn Willis, LEAD Spiritual Guide
When I was a young mom, my friends and I would exchange a small token and a smile every year on September 16th. It was our oh-my-gosh-wake-up-it’s-100-days-til-Christmas holiday. It was time to start any crafts, plan the baking, and look at airfare prices if we were traveling. Those 100 days go quickly!
So here we are nearing that 100-day mark. And Advent is only 79 days away! LEAD would like to help with some Advent resources and ideas.
Advent is a time for thinking about new things – new year and new energy – as we wait and hope for the coming of Jesus who brought us a new way to see the world. This is cradled in old traditions and old stories which have been handed down through generations. Traditions like the Advent wreath.
Have you ever looked up “Advent wreath” on Wikipedia?
The concept of the Advent wreath originated among German Lutherans in the 16th Century. However, it was not until three centuries later that the modern Advent wreath took shape.
Research by Prof. Haemig of Luther Seminary, St. Paul MN, points to Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808–1881), a Protestant pastor in Germany and a pioneer in urban mission work among the poor as the inventor of the modern Advent wreath in the 19th century During Advent, children at the mission school Rauhes Haus, founded by Wichern in Hamburg, would ask daily if Christmas had arrived. In 1839, he built a large wooden ring (made out of an old cartwheel) with 20 small red and 4 large white candles. A small candle was lit successively every weekday and Saturday during Advent. On Sundays, a large white candle was lit. The custom gained ground among Protestant churches in Germany and evolved into the smaller wreath with four or five candles known today. Roman Catholics in Germany began to adopt the custom in the 1920s, and in the 1930s it spread to North America. Professor Haemig’s research also indicates that the custom did not reach the United States until the 1930s, even among German Lutheran immigrants.
This year, LEAD will be taking yet another turn on the Advent wreath.
We will be translating the wreath into Protestant prayer beads. The prayer beads are organized into 4 “weeks” of seven beads each separated by larger Cruciform beads.
The Advent devotions will encourage prayer with the beads. Using prayer beads is an ancient practice that helps bring focus to your conversation with God. It also gives something solid to hold on to, since we can’t hold God’s physical hand.
Our friend Vonda Drees will be illustrating the beads each week, so no actual beads will be needed. An illustration will be in each week’s bulletin to write on or color as you pray. But if you and your community would like to have beads ready for Advent, watch this video for a short demonstration on how it could be done.
The devotions will include readings from the common lectionary and an invocation, confession, and prayers as well as time to color and pray.
Next Friday try greeting some friends with “Happy 100 days!” And start to turn your face toward the new church year and the hope and joy we share as a Christian community as we wait for the coming of Christ.