First Presbyterian Church of Santa Rosa

Evergreens and candles help slow us down and center us

Published in Presbyterian Mission Agency

by Kari Young

My girls are both college students and their schedules have them floating in and out of the house like frenzied subway riders at rush hour. While it’s been like this for several years now, I’ve never let that stop me from continuing the tradition of creating an Advent wreath that we started so many years ago here at First Presbyterian Church of Santa Rosa, California, when they were little.

For me, for them, for us as a family, our Advent wreath represents an invitation to slow down amid the holiday rush and remember to be present and just be. Pause. Breathe. Remember the real reason behind all the glitz and bright lights, all the cheer and noise, and so forth. That it’s not about any of that, but about all of it. Because it’s about the Christ coming into the world. The same Christ that so loved the world — all of it — you, me, them, all.

I don’t think God really cares how you decorate your house or what color scheme or color candles you use for your Advent wreath, or that you even make or have an Advent wreath at all. I believe God just wants us to stop running around. Return and be with God and take time to worship. It’s about anticipating God’s coming, both then and now.

An Advent wreath is a tool, or better stated, a spiritual practice that we can use during Advent to help center ourselves and our prayers to God during this season. And since I’m slinging around what “I think” God thinks (a very dangerous thing to do for sure, but hey), I’m sure he doesn’t want us to be burdened with “one more thing to do” for us to come and worship God.

That’s why I love our Advent wreath so much. My wreath invites me to come as I am, to stay as long as I like and as often as I want or need.

The Advent wreath is a spiritual practice inviting me to come individually and slow down during my busy days. The circular wreath that reminds there is no end to God’s love is also there for us as a family to gather around and share a meal and to enjoy the spiritual practice of slowing down and lighting its candles together.

When I lay down the expectations of “it has to be done this way, every day” to be done right — those expectations are especially high during the holiday season — I am free to sit by the wreath and enjoy the warmth and glow of the candles burning. As I do, the reminder of God’s promise of life everlasting is whispered to me from the greens of the wreath.

The spiritual practice of the Advent wreath reminds me that we are still a part of this world and all of humanity and sin. But it also reminds me, as we wait in anticipation through this season, that the kingdom we wait for has already begun and that we are also waiting for the kingdom to be fully restored.

As I light the candles and participate in this Advent spiritual practice and think about all that this wreath represents and reminds me to ponder, my brain begins to feel fragile and mushy, and I end up just being thankful and grateful. And that’s quite all right.

Making an Advent wreath

For years, Kari Young has helped with First Presbyterian Church of Santa Rosa’s Advent wreath workshop. She says that while it is common for the base of the wreath to be made from a wire frame, with candleholders attached to it, the church once used log slices as the base, complete with drilled holes for the candles. Greens and a few decorations completed the wreath. One year the church wanted to offer a child-friendly Advent wreath-making workshop that was both easy and inexpensive, using votive candles, a plate and a variety of greens — no wire frame base or log slices or Styrofoam rings necessary. Click here to watch the two-minute video that Young created to see how the wreath was made.

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Published on December 3, 2021

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