Last Sunday, members of The Christian Reformed Church of Washington, DC arrived to find the chairs rearranged to create a human Advent wreath with Advent candles dispersed among them and the Christ candle in the center.
Everyone in the wreath circle held unlit candles, waiting for the light to come their way.
“For each one of us,” said pastor Meg Jenista, “the process of waiting may look different.”
Several people throughout the service used their gifts to tell the story of Jesus’ birth. As Dave Apol told the Christmas story using wooden props and candles, the children in the congregation sat up straighter, mouths open and eyes wide, trying to follow as he moved the wise men, animals, and shepherds down the green felt road toward Jesus. “There’s a lot to wonder about in this story,” he said. “I wonder if they had other plans. I wonder why they stopped what they were doing to walk down that road. I wonder if God has a road to Bethlehem for us.”
The service fell two days after the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. Jenista acknowledged that everyone sitting in the circle waiting for the light of the Christ candle had come to church with different needs. Some needed joy, others needed to grieve. “These stories,” Jenista said, “work regardless of what space you are in.”
Those whose tea lights were lit from the Advent candles bent toward the next person, flame touching unlit wick, whispering, “The light shines in the darkness.” That person then responded with a declaration, a hope, a yearning: “And the darkness has not overcome it.”