At dinner time every evening, my children fight over who gets to light the Advent candle. This is one of our favourite Advent traditions. The desire to light the candle has little to do with piety and much more to do with the novelty of playing with fire. Nevertheless, I believe the simple act of delighting in striking the match over time anchors the deeper meaning of Advent. I hope that it at will sink in over years of lighting hundreds of candles. This is part of why I believe that physical traditions of Advent and Christmas are so important. Lighting a candle, putting up a tree, hanging lights, listening to Christmas music, giving to charity, baking goodies, wrapping presents, and more.
Traditions that Accent the Gospel Message
None of these are the Gospel message, but they accent it. They give us a concrete way to express the joy and wonder we experience as we meditate on the birth of Christ. God made us flesh and blood, not just souls. Jesus Christ did not just come as a proclamation. He came as a baby that his mother could hold and caress and physically love. The church has always recognized that we need to express our faith in physical ways. We break bread together in Eucharist, we adorn our church in beautiful colours and fabrics, we sing together, process with a cross, light candles, and exchange the peace. All of this helps us to embody the Gospel in our lives in simple and beautiful ways.
What are your favourite Advent and Christmas traditions? This year, consider renewing your appreciation of what they mean. For instance, when you light the Advent candles, meditate on the fact that fire represents the light of Christ. Or ponder the meaning of what hope or peace or joy or love might mean to you this day. When you put the star on the top of tree, let it remind you of the star that brought the wise men to Jesus. But even if you are not able to enter deeper into these truths this year, just enjoy the physical action of the traditions. They speak nevertheless.