Devotion for December 2, 2020 from Pastor Tia of Christ the King:
Today, I want to introduce you to Pastor Johann Hinrich Wichern and his wife Amanda. The two of them ran the Rauhe Haus in Hamburg, Germany, the city I lived in before coming to the States. There they took care of boys and girls who didn’t have a safe home. For the children, the two were teachers, educators and parents.
Most children who came to them had not felt or heard much about love before. It was new to them that someone showed interest in them and cared for them.
Like all children, the so called Wichern-children were very excited about the 1st of Advent. They knew: Christmas is just around the corner! There will be gifts soon! But when exactly? How often do you have to go to sleep?
In 1839 no Advent calendar had been invented yet to help kids count the days. And besides, in 1839 most adults did not take children’s issues so seriously. How often do I have to go to bed? You will see. Be good and quiet. That was mostly the answer.
But Johann Hinrich Wichern took the children’s questions very seriously. And that’s why he came up with his Wichern-wreath. As he did every morning, he celebrated devotion with the children. But one morning, in December of 1839, it was different. Wichern took a large wooden wagon wheel and placed it in the middle. There were 4 thick white candles placed on it.
Wichern pointed to the candles and said: “One candle for each Sunday in Advent. 4 candles.“
The children looked at Wichern with big eyes. Christmas was only 4 candles away? 4 nights? Of course, the older ones already knew what the 1st and 2nd and 3rd and 4th candle meant. These are of course the four Sundays before Christmas. But even a week is hard to keep track of for the little ones. How long is a week?
So Wichern now pointed to the little red candles. From today on, the children would light one more candle every day. And when all the candles were burning, it would be Christmas! This way the children learned immediately what it means when Jesus Christ says of himself: I am the light of the world.
As the light of the world, Jesus came into the world when it was darkest, in the middle of December.
But why did Wichern choose a wreath? Why not a long stick? Or a Christmas tree?
Wichern asked the kids: “Show me the beginning and the end of the wheel!“ The children thought about it. “There is no end“, they replied. “Exactly“, said Wichern. “There is no end and no beginning because God’s love for us also has no beginning and no end.“
Then Wichern fetched another box. A little bit of fresh green peeped out.
He explained: “We decorate the wreath with fir branches, because they always stay green. Just like God always stays with us, regardless of whether it gets cold or dark in life.“
Then Wichern rummaged in the box and gave a child a couple of golden nuts to decorate the wreath. “They stand for all the heavy and bitterly sad things we are afraid of. We can tell God about those things. He wants to comfort and help us.“
Now Wichern took dried cloves and cinnamon sticks out of the box. The children smelled it and their mouths were watering. “Cloves and cinnamon smell like cookies and gingerbread. They grow in Madagasca, far away from here“, said Wichern. “They remind us that God wants to come everywhere, not just us. And we are reminded of the kings from the East who did visit the Christ child in Bethlehem. Their navigation device was a brightly shining star. They followed it to the stable. For this you can now place a star on the wreath.
When they arrived in Bethlehem, the three kings found God’s Son. This is really a reason to celebrate, isn’t it?“ And all the kids screamed: “YEAHHHHHHH!“
Wishing you a delightful and blessed Advent Season, Pastor Tia!
P.S. We will only put 4 candles on our wreath. Otherwise it won’t fit onto our kitchen tables. But maybe, next year, we can have a big one for our church??