Sunday, November 28, 2010

Family Advent Wreath - Nov 28, Week 1 - Hope

For more information on Advent, see my previous post on the Family Advent Wreath.  These meditations are for the weekly lighting of the Advent Wreath candles, so allow for more time for discussion.

Nov. 28, 2010, First week of Advent

We begin the season with hope.  Hope is what the promised coming of the Messiah gave to the children of Israel.  They hoped for many things: peace, saving grace, relationship with God.  How can we explain these things to children, especially when the children are very literal and many times what we hope for is conceptual?

We begin with the idea of hope.  What are some things the children hope for?  While it may be easy to start with their Santa Wish List, it confuses the message and they think of hope as wishing for things that are material.  Hoping is not the same as wishing.  Hope is belief that what you desire will actually happen.  You might ask your child(ren) what they would pray for.  

If they need some guidance you might be ready with some suggestions such as "God bless mommy and daddy."  Help them understand that when they say "God bless mommy and daddy," what they are really asking for is for mommy and daddy to feel well (not be sick), for mommy and daddy to be happy, and for the family to have the things they need, and maybe a little extra.  When we ask God to bless us in a general way, this is usually what we desire.  The children may have been taught to pray, "God bless so-and-so" but not what asking for God's blessings really mean.

What we pray for is what we hope and desire.  We may already have it, such as health and happiness, but we may hope it continues.  On the other hand, if a child has been around a loved one who is sick or suffering from depression, then they will understand what it means to hope for something we don't have.  If they have ever felt sick, they know what it is like to hope to feel better.

With experience we learn that bad times do not last forever, things will eventually get better, just like night will eventually become the day.  Children do not have enough life experience to understand this very well.  Sometimes when things aren't going so well, they feel like it is forever.  To them that is a real feeling, even if we find their theatrics amusing.  This can be magnified in teens who are already self-conscious.  If your child has had any of these types of circumstances recently, that would be a good place to start with hopes.  We have hope that our circumstances will improve, and believe that it will, we just may not know when or how. Hope is an act of faith.  It is the belief, in spite of circumstances, that things can and will get better.  This is faith, and is important to teach our children. 

As far as the meditations for Advent will go, we will have a time for you to discuss as a family the topic of the week, such as hope, and this will set the stage for the meditation.  It will be good to ask questions to get your children to participate in the discussion.

Then there will be a Scripture reading.  The Scriptures printed for this post are from the NRSV translation.  Maybe one of the children could read the scripture verse, the meditation, or the prayer.

Ask your child(ren) what does "hope" mean?

What does it mean to "hope for" something?

What are some things you hope for?

Scripture reading:  Isaiah 60:2-3
Arise, shine; for your light has come,
   and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. 
For darkness shall cover the earth,
   and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
   and his glory will appear over you. 

The scripture tells us of people hoping for something.  What do you think they were hoping for?

(Darkness is used here metaphorically.  You might explain that to your children in a way they can understand. Talk about what it is like before the sun comes up.  It is the coldest time of the night.  We look for the sun to come up, and it is beautiful and brings warmth and light.  This scripture is talking about God's light being the light that comes when our world is dark, like the sunrise coming up in the morning. The verse is talking about the prophecy of a Messiah or chosen one of God who would shed light and save the world from darkness.)

They were hoping for God to send someone to help them.  God did send someone to help them.  Who did God send?  (The answer is, of course, Jesus.  You may have to give the children a few hints if they don't get the answer right away.)

When do we hope that God will help us?

Sometimes if we are afraid of the dark, we like to have a light left on, just a small one, to make us more comfortable.  To these people God's promise was like that night light, to bring comfort and get them through.
God gives us that same comfort.

Like when we wake up in the morning and can count on the sun rising to bring light and warmth to our world, we can also count on God to bring God's light and peace to our spirits in our time of need.  God sent his light to the world in the form of a person so everyone could understand.  Jesus brings that light to our lives and helps us to live in right relationship with God.

(Light the first purple or blue candle.  Any of the purple or blue candles will do, but we light them in an order of purple, purple, pink, purple, white; so it is best to start with the candle opposite of the pink in the circle.  If you are using a straight line, then you would set them up: purple, purple, white, pink, purple, and light from the ends; i.e., right outside purple, left outside purple, pink candle, purple inside, white.  Please make sure there is adult supervision for any child using matches or a lighter to light the candle.  Also, please supervise your child as long as the candle is lit.)

God, just as we see this light from a candle shining in our home, help us to see your light in our lives and in our world.  Jesus thanks for bringing that light to shine in our darkness, and for showing us that God loves us and wants to be in relationship with us.  Amen.

(You may wish to leave the candle burning for a bit.  If so, please ensure that children are not able to burn themselves or accidentally begin a fire.  It is permissible to talk for a bit longer, maybe about what they hope for, and then blow it out when you are finished with the time of devotion.)

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