I first experienced Advent while living in Germany. Marshall was stationed near Frankfort with the US Army. Germany was magical at Christmas time. The villages and towns we lived near were already alive with old world charm, they shared dazzled with pure white lights,evergreen trees adorned with red velvet bows, and shops and street vendors selling intricately decorated gingerbread cookies and marzipan candies in Christmas shapes!
The shops began to display these beautiful hanging wreaths. They were made from evergreen boughs with wide velvet or satin ribbons attached for hanging from the ceiling. Each wreath had four candles strategically-placed among the evergreen. They were amazing, some were 3 or 4 feet in diameter with candles more than a foot tall! I remember standing and staring for I had never seen anything like this before.
The only thing that bothered me was not all the candles were the same color! I was very confused. Why had the creator of these gorgeous wreaths mistakenly mixed up the colors? Each wreath had three purple candles and one pink candle or sometimes one white candle! This was so very confusing to me. It was a mystery that had to be solved.
I asked our German friend and neighbor, Robert, why the candles were so mixed up on the wreaths. With a smile he began to explain Advent to me. I had been going to church since I was a baby but this Baptist girl had never experienced Advent before! Robert gave me this simple explanation. Advent is the time of the year when we look forward to the coming of Christ. Each candle on the wreath represents different things and that’s why they’re different colors. A candle is lit in expectation and anticipation of the holiday season…
Finally the mismatch candles made sense. I remember thinking that would be a fun and meaningful tradition to start for our family. The elaborate wreaths were way out of our budget so I was content to admire them from a distance. Many German families hung the beautiful wreaths in picture windows, much like you see American Christmas trees displayed. Spying these magnificent wreaths while driving the countryside became a game our family played.
Returning stateside after living in Germany for three years, Advent and the wreaths became a fond memory until several years ago. Tabletop Advent candle rings began to show up in the stores at very affordable prices. My Advent candle ring is not as elaborate or awe inspiring as those massive hanging wreaths I admired so many years ago. I have come to understand that the wreath itself is not what is important, but rather what it represents.
As Marshall and I light the candles during this season of anticipation my prayer is that we will be awestruck with the wonder of God’s massive, lavish, and extravagant gift! In the past I have longed for one of those wonderful hanging wreaths. Suddenly I realize the simple table ring I have is adequate. Because Jesus hung on a cross and died for me. He give the best gift ever Eternal Life!
God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.
John 3:16 GW
Written by Susan