Advent By Candlelight

The Christmas season can be stressful for a variety of reasons. For some it’s an overwhelming “to do list” that appears to have no end. Or it may be the pressure of feeling financially strapped and unable to give your family the Christmas of their dreams. You may be experiencing emptiness thinking about loved ones who will be missing from the dinner table this year. While others may feel loneliness, simply yearning for family and friends to spend Christmas with. I’m sure all of you can relate to one of these scenarios and I find comfort knowing that I am not alone. One of the things I did this year to help me focus on the true meaning of the Advent season is participate in “Advent By Candlelight.”

Advent By Candlelight– In early December I gathered with other women and participated in a beautiful evening called “Advent By Candlelight” at my church, Zion Lutheran. “Advent By Candlelight” was new to me but after signing up to be a table hostess I discovered that women from all denominations kick off the advent season by holding “Advent By Candlelight” events at their churches. A simple search of “Advent By Candlelight” on Pinterest yields hundreds of lavish table decorations, delectable desserts and meaningful programming suggestions. I quickly realized I had been missing out on something very special.

My Table– I enjoyed decorating my table for “Advent By Candlelight.” I used my Lenox Christmas China (Holly Berry Pattern) and placed the dessert plates on gold chargers. I borrowed festive gold flatware adorned with a sprig of holly from my parents. Matching tea cups and glasses completed my table setting. I used a cream table cloth and glittering gold napkins. Nuts, candy and a variety of tea bags were placed in candy dishes that match my china pattern. My centerpiece was simple with two cream candles sitting among a bed of evergreen and white flowers.

I found the perfect gold detailed porcelain ornament favors. They matched my dishes perfectly and the messages of Blessed and Believe were appropriately written across the angel and star design.

The evenings program, “A Personal Journey to the Nativity” set the tone of the Advent season. Through singing, scripture and fellowship, I left the event feeling renewed and exhilarated; ready to great the craziness of the season head on.

Advent Wreath– Christians all over the world have adopted the tradition of lighting candles during Advent to observe this as the time of the coming of Christ who is the light of the world. One tradition is lighting an Advent wreath at church and at home to mark each Sunday in Advent. This Advent tradition dates back to Germany and the Lutheran Church following the Reformation.

Today Advent wreaths are made out of evergreen and are shaped like a circle to represent eternal life. The Advent wreath we use at church has five candles with three of the candles being blue in color to match the liturgical colors. The candle lit on the first week is blue and represents hope. The candle lit on the second week is blue and represents peace. The candle lit on the third Sunday is pink and represents joy. On the last Sunday of Advent a blue candle representing love is lit. The candle in the center is white and is know as the Christ candle. It is lit on Christmas or Christmas Eve.

The Advent wreath we are using in our home was carefully molded out of clay by my daughter’s tiny hands. Plastered with green paint it is adorned with five skinny birthday candles. Mrs. Stanglein helped Lillian craft this Advent wreath in preschool and although simple in design it glows with radiant splendor.

Lillian and her class learned an Advent song to go along with their wreath and they have been singing a new verse every week. We also sing the simple song in church as a new candle on the Advent wreath is lit. Lillian learned the song quickly and she had enjoyed singing it at the top of her lungs every day this month!

Light one candle for hope,
One bright candle for hope.
He brings hope to everyone.
He comes. He comes.
**For verses 2-4, replace hope with peace, joy, and love.**

Jesus Joy– I was once again reminded of my focus this Advent season during a recent children’s sermon at church. Lillian’s preschool teacher gave this particular children’s sermon a few weeks ago.While talking to the children Mrs Stanglein declared she would rename Advent, “Jesus Joy.” Her words reminded me to focus on the joy that the season brings instead of becoming overwhelmed with stress and anxiety. We should be joyous during the season of Advent for it is a time of triumph, exultation and joy as we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

Lillian with her teacher after singing at the preschool Advent service.

The Candy Lady “Sharing Sweetness Around Our Town”

It was a Tuesday afternoon and my daughter and I were on our weekly shopping trip to Aldi. While waiting to pay for our groceries a friendly lady, with only a few items in her cart, joined us in line. She smiled sweetly and commented on my daughter’s cuteness and good behavior. Since we had a cart full of groceries I motioned for her to go in front of us. She graciously thanked us and approached the cashier. She appeared to be a local celebrity because the cashier, along with the rest of the workers, seemed to know who she was and she was greeted with smiles, friendly waves and hugs! As my daughter and I were bagging our groceries the lady thanked us once again for letting her go ahead of us and asked, “Can your daughter have candy?” Although I was taught to never take candy from a stranger, this lady was clearly a regular shopper and I trusted the miniature candy bar she was offering my three-year old was safe to eat. As my daughter embraced the candy in her little hands, the lady thanked us for our kindness and wished us a good day. I helped my daughter unwrap the chocolate goodness and used this encounter as an opportunity to teach my offspring that when you do something kind for others, you get kindness in return.

Fast forward a month and you will find my daughter and I enjoying a spaghetti lunch with my mom and dad at our local Fazoli’s. A friendly lady wearing a beautiful cross necklace said hello as she passed our table. My dad complemented her on the delicate cross necklace and a few minutes later the lady returned asking if my daughter could have candy. When I responded favorably she showered our table with chocolates. My mind raced to the lady who gave us candy at Aldi’s and I quickly realized we were having another sweet encounter with the candy lady!

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A picture with Edy “The Candy Lady”

This time I discovered the candy lady is Edy and that she never leaves home without a bag of chocolate. She finds joy handing out candy to workers at the establishments she frequents, bringing a little sweetness to others in what may otherwise be an ordinary day. In return, they look forward to Edy’s visits and she is treated with kindness and respect. In the fast paced world we live in we often don’t take the time to connect with others. How many times have you been guilty of being on your cell phone while a cashier rings up your groceries? Or being distracted by your little one or your lengthy “to do list” or the many other stresses in your life that you barely make eye contact with the worker who fills your order? Edy reminded me how important it is to take the time to be kind and considerate and to let people know, “You are important, I notice you and I appreciate the work you do!” And as a parent I need to remember there is a little person watching my every move, observing my actions and reactions and striving to be just like me! Through a smile, a friendly nod or a simple “thank you,” we can all be like Edy and together we can make the world a sweeter place.

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Lillian was Inspired by Edy “The Candy Lady.” She is sorting candy to share with others.