Blue Mountains Franciscan Church
Lighting the First Advent Candle
Presider: In the ancient world, various peoples lit fires to mark the turning of the light into winter’s season and to pray for the return of the light. The church has Christianised that practice in the lighting of the Advent wreath.
To us, these candles are signs of the growing light of Christ who is coming again in all fullness into the darkness of our world.
Until the dawning of that Great Day, we watch and wait in Holy Spirit for Christ’s coming into the darkness of our world, lighting candles of hope, peace, joy, and love; and remembering the promises of God with prayer.
Watch and wait for Christ’s coming!
Light candles of hope, peace, joy, and love, remembering the promises of God with prayer.
We light this candle in hope.
Light the first candle.
Presider: Hear God’s promise of hope from Isaiah 2:2-4:
Deacon: In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Presider: Let us pray. Faithful God, out of war’s chaos, you bring the order of peace. Renew us in hope, that we may work toward Christ’s advent of peace among all nations. God of promise, God of hope, into our darkness come.
Deacon: Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!
Office of Theology and Worship Presbyterian Church (USA)
Sermon Preached by Br Luke efo on Sunday 27th November 2016
at Springwood, NSW
First Sunday in Advent year A
The first Sunday in advent. Now know I said we’d have Fluro blue or purple as the liturgical colour and we’ve got just pain purple today – well Advent’s not finished yet!
Apart from the colour blue or purple, there are two other traditions we keep during Advent. The Advent Wreath and the Nativity set. Let’s talk about the Advent wreath first.
The circle of the wreath represent eternity. It is usually made of evergreen branches which reminds us of life. The evergreen tree never loses its leaves. So in the depths of winter when everything is covered in snow and it all looks bleak, the evergreen tree stands as reminder that life does go on.
Each candle on the wreath, reminds us of our spiritual preparation for Christmas. As one would expect there is no consistency across the faith as to what colour the candles must be, but generally candles are purple, pink and white, or, blue, pink and white or red and white. So in keeping with our tradition, of accepting all, and somewhat breaking the rules, our candles are a blend of all the choices: blue, purple, pink, red and white.
The practice of reciting scripture when a candle is lit, reminds of our spiritual preparation for Christmas day. So what does each candle point us to?
- The 1st Candle (blue): The Prophecy Candle or The Candle of Hope. Christ is coming and we have hope with his arrival.
- The 2nd Candle (purple): The Bethlehem Candle or The Candle of Preparation. Jesus was born in Bethlehem and so we prepare for his birth. This candle is also sometimes also called the Peace Candle.
- The 3rd Candle (pink): The Shepherd Candle or The Candle of Joy. The shepherds were the first humans to hear the good news. Joy fills our heart when we also hear the good news. Why pink? Well I was once told that it is because in the medieval church Advent, like, Lent, was a time of fasting and the pink candle told everyone they were half way through the fast. Perhaps in this case joy had a different meaning. In the Roman and some Anglican churches, the priest’s vestment’s (chasuble and stole) are also pink.
- The 4th Candle (red): The Angel Candle or The Candle of Love. The angels announced the good news of God’s love.
- The 5th Candle (white): The Christ Candle, the arrival of the Baby Jesus.
The Nativity set is, as we all know, the invention of a certain much loved, medieval saint, who wandered around barefoot wearing a brown garment. He invented the nativity, using live animals, people and a new born baby at the village of Greccio in Italy. He wanted people to be present at the birth of Jesus and so he re-created it. No, I’m not giving prizes for you to guess the name of our mendicant saint. But if you don’t know, I will be less than impressed.
There is also a tradition that the pieces of the set are gradually added to during the four weeks of advent. Jesus is added on Christmas day and the three Magi after Christmas Day.
Well, this now brings me to today’s scriptures. Have another look at verse 10 of Chapter 13 of St Paul’s letter to the Romans. “Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law”. St John says ‘God is love’, so Jesus fulfils the law. Simple?
But, we humans like to make it complicated. Humans aren’t satisfied with the simple, humans like complicated. Humans like more rules, more restrictions, more methods to demonstrate how others don’t fit in, humans don’t do simple. Humans as St Paul puts it, like the ‘works of darkness’. Licentiousness, drunkenness, debauchery, quarrelling and jealously. Why, because we rebel. We don’t love, rather we envy and we lust. We move away from, rather than to, the light. The light will reveal our dark deeds, so we shun the light. We prefer to go about doing the things that demonstrate the very opposite of love and we like to do them in secret.
Now of course, some will say we only do this because the wily serpent tricked us in the Garden of Eden. And yes, the scriptures say that. But if you have a close read of the passage in Genesis, when God asks Adam what he’s done, Adam blames God. Adam says ‘the woman you give me, tricked me.’ Ah talk about avoiding responsibility for ones actions. Hmm sounds awfully like a teenager really.
Of course, the works of darkness appeal because they say: ‘don’t think about the other, think about yourself’. Put another way, the works of darkness are the opposite of the fulfillment of the law. Which is what St Paul says when he implores the Romans to go to the light. Put on the armour of light. He recognises it will be a battle. Then he adds put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Put on love.
We get a glimpse of a radical idea here, stepping into love, not away from it. A conscious decision to step into the light means to walk away from darkness, to reject its dark deeds and is the very opposite of the events in the garden of Eden.
Are these challenging, confronting and disturbing thoughts? Maybe. But this not need be overwhelming. We can overcome darkness, we have hope, we can love, we can hold onto Christ, and so we can achieve wearing the armour of light. Are you up to experiencing the joy filled life this will bring? I pray you are.
- Office of Theology and Worship Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). (2015). Lighting the Advent Wreath. Available: http://www.pcusa.org/site_media/media/uploads/worship/pdfs/lighting_the_advent_wreath.pdf. Last accessed 27th November 2015.