The service begins with the candles of the Advent Wreath already lit. At the end of each reading, the appropriate number is extinguished.
On Christmas Eve, we begin again with all candles lit, then gradually extinguish all. When the whole wreath is dark, then we light the Christ Candle (the center candle). This assumes a wreath of 3 purple or blue candles with 1 pink candle. As the wreath is reversed, that means the pink candle ends up second rather than third. These parts can be moved around or modified as needed.
(These words are used each week)
Traditionally, the Advent Wreath is used to mark the Sundays until Christmas with gradually increasing light. Each week, a new flame is lit, to represent light banishing darkness.
This year, however, we are doing something different.
Darkness is as important as light. The cold dark of winter is as important to life as the bright warmth of summer. We need the blessing of the dark as much as the blessing of the light.
What's more, as a community committed to anti-racism, we recognize the subtle danger of always equating white or light with “good” and black or dark with “bad.” To claim the blessings of the dark is an act of justice. Black is beautiful.
So this year, we are doing a reverse Advent Wreath. We begin with all the lights, and each week we will extinguish another flame, until, gradually, we enter into the full darkness.
Today we honor the gift of rest and healing.
To truly rest, we need dark. In the darkness of sleep, our bodies and brains heal.
In times of high anxiety, in days of stress and worry, we give thanks for the healing power of darkness. May we be blessed by the gift of rest. [extinguish first candle]
Today, our candle is rose, to represent joy. We honor the beauty and joy of those things we can only find in the nighttime. The fireflies, the owls, the crickets, the stars. We give things for the beauty and joy to be found only in the dark. May we be blessed by the gift of black joy. [extinguish first two candles]
Today, we remember those things that only exist in the dark, far far away from us. The creatures in the depths of the dark ocean, living creatures in the blackest caves, we imagine the life that may exist in the deepest darkest parts of the universe, on remote asteroids or planets where we could not survive. Just because human do not or cannot live there, still the Spirit of Life is at work, abundantly. We are not all there is. Nature is not just for us. May this make us humble. May we be blessed by the awesome abundant life of the darkness. [extinguish first three candles]
Today we give thanks for the darkness of not knowing. There is so much we can never understand, there are so many questions we are afraid to ask. Let us not be afraid of the blackness of mystery. The beautiful black of the universe that births the stars, the darkness of the womb as life prepares to be born. The dark winter that must exist for there to be a spring. May we be blessed by the blackness of not knowing. [extinguish all four candles]
CHRIST CANDLE (on Christmas Eve)
Traditionally, each Sunday leading up to Christmas we would light an extra candle on our Advent Wreath, to represent ever-increasing light. This year, we have gone in reverse, extinguishing our flames to remind us of the gifts of darkness.
We have honored the darkness of not knowing, the blackness of mystery [extinguish first]
We have remembered that even in the dark places no human can live in, the deepest oceans, the furthers unknown planets, life thrives. We have been humbled by the fullness of the dark. [extinguish second]
We have celebrated the beauty of the nighttime, the lights of fireflies and the brilliance of stars against the black sky [extinguish third]
And we have rested, knowing that we must have darkness and rest to heal [extinguish fourth]
The darkness of our Advent Wreath… is this the darkness of the womb? The cold chill of night in a manger? Is this the black sky where, if we pay attention, a new star appears, moving in strange ways, leading us to mystery? What is to be born and held by this holy darkness?
[Light the Christ Candle]
This is the Christ Candle, it represents the light that the stories, teachings, and legends of Jesus continue to bring into the world. We give thanks for the darkness we have journeyed in, and we open ourselves up to the light.