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holy days

The Holidays have become a celebration of materialism.

Think on it. The season begins with a feast, continues through a whirlwind of parties and events, then culminates with a gift extravaganza. The season concludes with a boozy farewell to the year accompanied by vague hopes for a better next year.

This is what the Holidays are. This is not what they were meant to be.
The term itself hints at something beyond stuff and activities. Holidays derives from holy days. Traditionally holy days were days set aside for contemplating the mysteries we can't quite grasp, and reflecting on the reality beyond what we can experience. During the holy days people reassured each other that there is a hope beyond what we can see.

Advent encompasses the four Sundays immediately preceding Christmas Day. It was designed to create space for thoughtful reflection about ideas we are usually too busy to consider. Advent focuses on four concepts most people desire but few acquire:
  • Hope.
  • Peace.
  • Joy
  • Love.
Advent offers one predominate, simple symbol. A wreath. In this wreath four candles are situated around a central candle. This symbol grew organically over centuries as a tool people used to quiet themselves in order to make space to reflect and pray.

Every evening of the first week, one candle is lit. Every evening of the second week, two candles are lit. Then three candles during the third week, four during the final week. On Christmas Eve all five candles are lit and the brief Christmas story is read from the ancient text.

There's no magic in lighting candles. But that simple act is meant to carve out empty space and time for God to fill. Setting aside time to light candles is designed to replace our busyness with stillness. To consider that perhaps the divine is with us. And that hope, peace, joy, love are attainable for those who make room for God. ~

Merry Christmas,
Dan Nygaard