The first week of Advent is all related to the element of earth. It is about being solid, and complete.
An advent table might host a few simple things- perhaps a barn (the physical structure of the barn might mirror the physical structure of the human, in that “our body is the home for our soul”), crystal gems, granite or even sandstone blocks.
This week, the first candle that we light represents HOPE. We can continue to hope that the future will continue to bring us great joy, and, remain hopeful that the birth of a new baby indicates the universe’s continuing trust in the human race. Perhaps, we pnder, this little child will help to make the world good and right?
Every time a baby is born, that is our hopeful wish- is it not?
A typical advent wreath has four candles that sit, evenly spaced, around the perimeter of the circle, and oftentimes, there is one large candle placed in the centre of the wreath to light on Christmas Day. The wreath itself is usually made from local vines, which symbolizes new life and growth. The circle of the wreath represents ‘eternity’- no beginning and no end- a similar meaning can be found in the wearing of a wedding band. In the northern hemisphere, the lighting of the candles each week symbolizes an increasing fullness of light at a time when the darkness threatens to take over. For us here in the Southern hemisphere, we can look at the light as a symbol of the light inside us growing ever outward towards the community-this light streaming out towards the world reflects our grace to others.
Three of the four main candles are often purple (not white) as a symbol of the royalty (the child) that will soon come. The fourth one may be pink- representing joy and the close of the anticipatory time- leading us to celebration. But many families use white candles, sometimes decorated by the children with wax images.
Advent in the Southern hemisphere, along with all the major festivals in fact, calls upon us to use our thinking ability and heart to find truth in how we relate to, and present, these festivals which are so deeply rooted in the times of cold winters of the Northern hemisphere. But all of us are called to ‘re-new’ (to make new) the festivals year after year, to stop them “dying” of tradition.
It is an immense challenge- one I love. Kindergarten teachers face this year in, year out and must find ways to ‘renew’ the tasks of their daily rhythm. Or else suffocate from boredom! (This is where the work of being ‘conscious’ with the children really begins!!)
The lighting of each new candle reminds us that ‘something is happening’. It is the gift of anticipation. Sadly, anticipation is not something every child gets to experience these days. If we can help a child experience this great wonder, perhaps through a festival or ceremony like Advent, we have “done good” in the world.