by Jill Ragar Esfeld
My Christmas decorations are finally up, but I can’t keep my cat from climbing our tree, nor convince my dog the ornaments hanging from the banister garland are not his toys.
My hallway is filled with piles of gifts I’m trying to organize before wrapping begins.
I keep making lists and rearranging piles.
I’ve addressed two cards; I have about 50 more to go.
I’ve got cookie recipes and pounds of flour sitting on my kitchen counter begging for attention.
My daughter will be arriving from Chicago soon, along with her boyfriend, so bedrooms must be readied. And because of the boyfriend, my whole house really needs to be cleaned.
I have 15 people coming for Christmas dinner — some are vegetarian, others are paleo dieters, two are gluten-free and one is lactose intolerant.
They all want to eat healthy. (No one really wants to eat healthy.)
I am a typical woman during the holiday season, filling every day of Advent with shopping, decorating, cleaning and cooking. I’m Martha in the Gospel, so caught up in preparations that I’m missing the voice of Jesus.
And that’s why I love Advent by Candlelight — an annual gathering of women like me who chose to step away from the chaos of the holiday season for one evening and refocus on the true meaning of the season, the advent of our Savior. Started by women in the 1970s, Advent by Candlelight is now celebrated by Christian churches throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.
Two years ago, my own parish, Holy Trinity in Lenexa, began the tradition, following the example of other parishes in the archdiocese.
The structure is simple. Women sign up to host tables for an evening of food, fellowship, reflection and prayer.
The day of the event, hostesses arrive early with boxes of dishes, silverware and centerpieces to decorate their tables.
From finest china to paper plates, and centerpieces as elaborate as they are creative, each table welcomes guests and reflects the theme of the season. Candles are an essential ingredient.
When guests arrive they bring wine, appetizers and desserts to share.
The evening begins with fellowship and an opportunity to tour the tables; then the lights go out and the program unfolds, usually including Scripture readings, music and a guest speaker with a reflection on the Advent season.
It is a wonderful tradition that allows women who are overwhelmed with family responsibilities to pull back from the chaos of the holiday and recall the true meaning of Advent.
And it all takes place by candlelight — keeping us focused on Christ as the true light of the season.