From the Ministerial Intern, Thu Nov 30

Waiting by candlelight 

December brings a month’s worth of different holiday celebrations, with their varied activities and traditions. Hanukkah, Christmas, the Winter Solstice, and Kwanzaa are the ones most familiar to me. 

Candles and candlelight are a shared characteristic of these different winter holidays, each with its own symbolism and meaning. They spread their light and dispel the darkness as they burn in the menorah, the advent wreath, and the Kwanzaa kinara, or are lit from the Yule log. 

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, the four-week period of waiting and expectancy in the Christian tradition that precedes Christmas. For those who celebrate Christmas, advent wreaths help mark the passage of the four weeks with candles that signify hope, love, joy and peace. These themes provide a focal point for reflection and contemplation on the larger meaning of the holiday.

It’s easy to lose the larger meaning of any holiday when we become wrapped up in the stress, busyness and expenses of gift giving, entertaining, travel, and visits with family and friends. Rather than trying to “survive” the Christmas season, Rev. Jake Morrill, who identifies as a Christian UU, asks us to consider,

What if it wasn’t only a choice between misery or merry? What about a third option: an adequate Christmas. An adequate Christmas would have you calm and open, taking it in, accepting whatever is.

 … Treat the holidays as sacred time. Turn your attention toward tradition, toward spiritual practice, toward encouraging and welcoming God like you haven’t before. Slow it all down like you might be, in some way, attuned to the pace of the Eternal.                                                                                                                            (An Adequate Christmas, UUA Braver/Wiser blog)

In recent years, I’ve reclaimed the advent wreath tradition of my childhood church. Lighting those candles in my home in the evening is a different spiritual practice from my usual. Those candles do slow me down and invite reflection and contemplation on hope, then love, joy and peace. The warm glow of candlelight takes the chill out of the air and sheds light on what really matters.

May you, too, find an adequate holiday, whatever your tradition or spiritual practice, and the calmness and openness to embrace what is most important and meaningful to you.

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