The greenery, berries and other items remind us of new life all around us, even in our harsh, cold winter seasons or times of life.
We know that underneath the snow and ice, new life is waiting to spring forth when warmer weather returns. What appears to be desolation is really an incubator preparing the seeds for sprouting when the time is right. The life layer is a reminder that our own desolate moments will prepare us for new life at the proper time. We recall the story of Joseph. New life was brought out of his personal hardship.
Like Elijah, we find our sustenance in God’s abundant gifts. The life found in the greenery and berries symbolizes how God provides for us through all seasons of life. The evergreen, the red berries, and other plants remain vibrant throughout the winter season. They are unchanging, even in harsh winds and icy temperatures. God is our constant, never-changing source of life. We can bear the changes and fluctuations of life as we worship our constant source of life, God.
The life layer also reminds us that in our baptism, we are called to die to ourselves, and in doing so, we find new life. As we were told in the words of Isaiah, we receive life and healing when we offer life and healing in service to others. The second layer is a symbol of the new way of life found in our baptism and the Spirit’s call to become servants of God.
Place the rest of the candles on this new layer of greenery and life. The candles are now up a bit higher, beginning to shine over the edge of the pan. Like the candles, our spirits are lifted as we become closer to “receiving”- revealing the newborn Christ in our hearts again.
When all outward appearances may speak of winter and death, we know that new life and resurrection are always promised, not only for the spring, but for each and every day. We know that God is able to provide and to bring new life out of all difficult winters we endure.
The second candle among the greens then becomes our symbol of hope.
Light the second candle.
Read Luke 1:39-45
“And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord. (Luke 1:45, NRSV)
The expectant Mary went to see Elizabeth, who also was pregnant. Perhaps she was hoping to have a mentor, a female companion who would share the same experiences. Perhaps she was excited to share her news with a beloved relative. Perhaps she needed a word of encouragement in those early months of pregnancy. Mary had “died to herself” by accepting God’s loving plan for her life, but she was still waiting for new life to birth.
When Mary and Elizabeth greeted each other, Elizabeth’s baby “leaped in her womb” and the Holy Spirit came upon her. Elizabeth affirmed Mary’s blessedness and the blessedness of the child she carried. Elizabeth strengthened Mary’s hope. Elizabeth realized that Mary was blessed by her trust in God’s word being fulfilled. Mary would bear this waiting time with hope given by God and by loving companions.
During this Advent holiday season, we may have many opportunities to gather and celebrate. As we meet with family and friends, we find life and warmth to share in the love of God. We need one another as mentors and encouraging companions for all the times of our lives. When we visit these dear ones over the holidays, let’s hold a special thankfulness in our hearts for the life and hope they bring to us.
Let’s also spend time with God. We can trust God’s promises of new life to us and for all seasons of life. God’s word was fulfilled in the gift of God’s son, Jesus, and God’s word is fulfilled in our daily lives as well. We need to be patient. Like Mary and the tiny new life developing within her, we need to bring our buried dreams to God for growth and development. As Mary sought out Elizabeth, let’s seek out friends for mentoring and encouragement, while trusting God’s promises of new life. Here we will find our hope- as we patiently wait out any difficult winter season.
Focus for the rest of this week:
Pray for the hope found in God’s promise of new life and resurrection. Thank God for the hope given us in the birth of Jesus and the resurrection after his death. Be thankful that God’s word is always true, God’s love is constant. Spend time with a dear one who encourages you; offer encouragement to someone who needs hope.
You will need any items that symbolize joy for the next layer: ribbons, bells, small ornaments, etc. Anything that makes you smile! Perhaps something whimsical!