Touch the sand in the wreath pan. Consider the desert. Consider your own desert times in your life and in this week.
The desert is a place without abundant vegetation or life; the desert is a stark reminder of what we would lack if not for God. The desert is not our normal place to be. Recall Abram’s way of building altars in the wilderness to worship and thank God. Our sand-desert times become moments of humility and gratitude, as we recognize that all of life and its blessings come from God.
Recall Moses hearing God speak from the burning bush in the wilderness. The barrenness of our sand-desert times helps us to be more able to notice and to recognize the desire of our hearts; to reduce our distractions and busyness; to allow God “space” in which to work. In order to be more attentive to God, we choose to live with more simplicity.
Recall God’s words through Isaiah, promising to do a “new thing.” Place the candles on the wreath. At this time, the four candles are lower in the pan and not easily seen. The Christ candle on the center flute reigns above all. The candles remind us of our lowliness and meekness. We put our trust in Christ.
When we acknowledge our own barrenness, we become humble. When we recognize our abundant life-giving God, we are grateful. When we choose a simpler way of living, we become more attentive to God’s work in our lives and God’s voice in our hearts. When we seek to follow God’s lead, we recognize our lowliness and meekness and let Christ reign over us. Even if we are called to venture into new, unfamiliar territory, we can trust that God leads us, guides us and loves us.
The first candle in the sand then becomes our symbol of PEACE.
Light the first candle. Read Mary’s story. Luke 1:26-38
“Let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38 NRSV)
Mary was specially called by God to enter new and unfamiliar territory- her own desert journey. With the angel’s surprising news, Mary’s life changed completely! Mary was going to give birth to Jesus, son of God. It certainly seems this would not have been part of Mary’s plan for her life. The angel’s words were a holy interruption to the life she knew and expected hers to be. She, too, was called to enter a desert of uncertainty.
Imagine what Mary may have wondered… Why me? Why now? How will this happen? How will I explain this to Joseph, my family, my friends? Will I be able to provide for this child? How should I prepare for this baby? But Mary’s reply is trusting, lowly and humble, “Here am I, a servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Her example of complete, trusting obedience brings peace.
May we be aware and attentive to the “holy interruptions” that surprise us. Like Mary, we have our own desert times of changing or uncertain futures. We have times when our holiday preparations or even our life plans are interrupted. But we can reply to God, “Let it be with me according to your word.” No questions asked. We can journey forth through each day, allowing the interruptions, taking time to notice God at work, and building an altar of gratitude at each resting place. We can heed and obey God in lowliness, trust and humility. Remember Mary’s words this week.
Focus for the rest of this week:
Pray for the peace found in pure, trusting, humble obedience. Try to simplify one area of your life, or fast from something that distracts you in these next few days. Be aware and grateful for the empty times or empty feelings that have drawn you closer to God.
You will need greens for your next layer- holly leaves, evergreens, or any other greenery (I use artificial). If you’d like a little color, get some berries, too!
As I think about my own desert time, I believe I’m at the “building altars of thanks after coming through the desert” time. But in recent days, my desert seems to be a melancholy spirit- from gray days, cold winds, and perhaps a bit of missing friends and family. My message seems to be that I should light candles to brighten our home, embrace God’s light of love, and watch for ways to BE God’s light for others. Any other thoughts this week?