Advent 2: Hope and Peace

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I have always loved the day that “Christmas” comes out of the attic. I love the magic of lights and candles, colors and keepsakes. 

My mom is a boss when it comes to Christmas decorations – she used to cover the mantelpiece with angel hair, lights, and figurines. I thought it was magical. 

Mom would sit us down at the table (myself and my three sisters), and we would get to choose which Christmas cookies we would bake with her. These delicacies would then be plated up and given away as gifts. 

Nat King Cole is the soundtrack in these memories.

The practice of placing a wreath of holly on the front door began in Ireland. Holly flourishes at Christmastime, and it gave poorer people the ability to generously decorate their homes. 

In ancient Celtic practice, holly was revered because it was believed to have healing powers. The druids believed it special because it helped to keep the earth beautiful when the other trees shed their leaves. Holly was considered a protective plant.

Holly was also said to have important spiritual attributes and the druids believed it could guard against witchcraft and evil. The Irish loved to decorate their doors and windows with holly believing its spikes could capture evil spirits and prevent them from entering the house.

The first Christmas tree was actually the sacred oak tree. The oak was believed to be the controller of light during the spring and summer months. The holly presided spiritually over the darker six months of the year.

In the Celtic tree calendar, holly is linked to the eighth month. It was said that at mid-summer the holly won the battle over light with the oak, and gained control of the coming darker months. 

On the night of the Winter solstice the Celtic people would hang fruit from the branches of the oak tree.  On this night, the light won over the darkness, and the days began to lengthen again.

As Christianity spread in Ireland, holly took on a new significance. The prickly leaves came to represent the crown of thorns that Jesus was made to wear; and the red berries represent the blood that fell from his brow.

The victory of light over darkness is a powerful image for this season, when we typically have approximately 7 ½ hours between sunrise and sunset. The promise of lighter, longer days brings hope. 

And with hope, we can have peace.

Isaiah prophesies about the coming Messiah. He says this:

The people walking in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of deep darkness

a light has dawned.

For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given,

and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace

there will be no end.

Isaiah 9:2, 6 and 7

John the Apostle writes:

The true light that gives light to everyone

was coming into the world.

He was in the world,

and though the world was made through him,

the world did not recognize him.

He came to that which was his own,

but his own did not receive him.

Yet to all who did receive him,

to those who believed in his name,

he gave the right to become children of God—

children born not of natural descent,

nor of human decision or a husband’s will, 

but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

We have seen his glory,

the glory of the one and only Son,

who came from the Father,

full of grace and truth.

John 1:9-14

There are times, as the days get shorter, that the world feels heavier. Some mornings it is hard to get out of bed in the dark. 

On those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

The true light that gives light to everyone has come into the world. 

We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

He is the Prince of Peace, full of grace and truth. 

He is Immanuel, “God with us”  (Isaiah 7:14), who meets us in the darkness and dispels it.

The light conquers the darkness, bringing hope… and peace.

That’s what I would have said…

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