Tonight is the second candle lighting of our advent celebration for the rebirth of the Light at Winter Solstice, or Christmas, if you prefer. Or both!
It does not matter if perhaps you missed last Sun Day, and are just now joining us. Your energy and good thoughts are most welcome whenever you join. Indeed, I believe you have found your way here for a reason. Your help is absolutely necessary.
To find out the general ideas about what you need to do to join in the festivities, click here. It is incredibly simple really, and takes very little time. Although I primarily write about the Pagan and Christian interpretations, this can be easily adapted to all of the world’s major religions and philosophies.
It’s the energy and meaning that come from your heart, not the esoteric complexity (although if you are into that, by all means, go for it!).
Tonight’s Ceremony – Dec. 4
At sunset in a darkened room, take a few quiet moments to be fully present as you stand before your wreath.
Then realize how you hold the ability in your hands to transform the dark into bright warm illumination. If you have words or a prayer song to share aloud, please do.
You might wish to consider, too, that you are joined in this sacred circle by men, women, and children of many faiths, many languages, from many lands. Over the years, people have told me that this realization is one of the most powerful components of this practice.
So you may wish to take a moment to open your awareness to the many hundreds of us — possibly thousands this year — who are participating with you.
We may be celebrating at the exact moment as you, or ahead of, or behind you, in “real” time. But we are simultaneously all in the eternal Circle, in our own liminal moment, as evening sweeps across the Earth.
Take a few moments to absorb the deep quiet of the dark. Give thanks for its time of gestation, the sweet blackness that holds and feeds our roots, the mystery that nurtures, the sleep that stills our weariness and gives space for our dreams.
Then, as the dusk deepens, with our intention in mind, light your first candle (from last week).
Focus on all that it means to you, perhaps reviewing this aloud with your loved ones. Has its significance changed or grown stronger for you, since that first lighting? For Pagan participants, this might be the candle for Air or East. For some Christians, last week’s candle represents hope, or it may be in honor of Isaiah and other seers and prophets.
As you light your candle, bask in its beautiful light, giving thanks in whatever ways your heart speaks to you.
The Second Candle’s Meaning
Next, gaze at the unlit second candle.
For those counting down to Christmas, many denominations consider tonight’s second candle to represent Love.
Other churches call it the Bethlehem candle, referring to the gifts of hospitality and the preparations of body and spirit, for receiving the Divine One. Thus, it is also known as the Candle of Preparation.
And some Christian traditions consider it to be in reverence for the gift of the sacred scriptures, specifically, the Bible.
If you are Christian, you might first consider how conflicts over the Bible and its interpretations have brought anger, hate, or grief to your faith. Also, in the story of the Christ’s birth, there was no room for the expectant couple at the inn. Instead, the only welcome available was in a stable, with a manger for their newborn baby.
What present-day shadows now echo the Christmas story’s lessons of accommodation for those who seek shelter? How do you embody kindness towards strangers, the open door of welcome, and the virtue of hospitality in accordance with your faith?
These matters can easily be interwoven with the Earth traditions, who may see the second candle as representing the Element of Fire, in its aspect as the element of hearth and hospitality.
Thus, let us contemplate the meaning of Fire and what Fire offers.
As we have been reminded in recent days, Fire can be profoundly destructive. The shadow aspect of Fire brings to mind the unthinkable tragedy of the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland, California this weekend, as well as the wildfires that have lately wreaked unprecedented havoc from Tennessee to Georgia.
And Fire represents our need as humans for warmth and light — which drives the never-ending quest for fossil fuels, in turn contributing to global climate change and war.
Tonight, you might acknowledge the shadow aspects. But then, turn your awareness to the gifts of Fire in your life.
Fire is the very essence of life — the electrochemical stream that is the life force itself.
It cleanses, transforms, burns away what must be given up in order to feed the life force. Passion is often referred to as our Fire, and we all experience physical desire as a flaming energy. Fire is our creativity, our welcoming hospitality. Fire feeds us, and we feed the fires in our lives.
It is the precious gift of Prometheus, it is the sacred blessing of Brighid.
You might visualize the bonfires lit upon ancient hilltops, signaling in times of need or celebration. Think of the hearths of our ancestors, soup bubbling, children gathered round in warmth and safety while icy winds blast outside.
Know that our second candle tonight is being lit by others who have joined in this rite across the globe. Together we will chase the gloom, the dank, and the cold dark that have chilled our hearts for too long.
Light your candle now, and gaze upon it. Combined with the first one, look how much brighter everything has become! This is how we will see change happening in the coming year.
Celebrate that light with song, stories, prayer, or silence. Let it warm you in the many ways you and others who may be present wish to share.
Then at last, when you are ready, gently, reverently bid it farewell and extinguish it, followed by the first candle.