Preparing for Worship – Leigh Curl, pastoral resident.
A couple of weeks ago, I attended my third ordination during coronavirus. As you can imagine, it looked a little different than a typical ordination might. The ordination was outdoors under a picnic shelter. Only forty people were in attendance. There was no congregational singing. We all had different pods we were assigned to sit in that were spaced six feet apart. Instead of physically laying hands, all of the ordained stood socially distanced and held out their hands in blessing. But the most beautiful thing happened that day: one of my dearest friends was ordained to ministry in the Lutheran church. I am fairly confident there was not a dry eye to be found.
The service began with thanksgiving for baptism. Different folks walked up to light candles for the different stages of my friend’s life. As a deacon read litanies of gratitude for the experiences and people who have shaped, loved and supported my friend in her baptism until the day of her ordination, each person lit a candle. As I watched the lighting of the candles, I realized I was watching the light break through the darkness. The ordination was the day before the third Sunday of Advent. Only the candles of hope and peace were lit on the Advent wreath next to the candles of thanksgiving, but it was as if Christmas had come early. The light had broken through the darkness. Christ was among us there in the picnic shelter.
As I noticed the candles burning at different points in the service, I was reminded of a Christmas meditation from Howard Thurman:
“I will light candles this Christmas;
Candles of joy despite all sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,
Candles of courage for fears ever present,
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,
Candles of love to inspire all my living,
Candles that will burn all year long.”
On my friend’s ordination day, candles were lit despite all the pain, grief and weight this year has brought. This Sunday, on this first Sunday of Christmas, we light all the candles in the Advent wreath. We rejoice and light the candles because Christ our savior is born. This morning as you prepare for worship, may you feel the warmth and light of these candles. And may you feel the joy, hope, courage, grace, peace and love that the newborn Christ brings.