EDDINGTON, Maine — The true spirit of Christmas moved a little closer Sunday morning, when many churches celebrated the first Sunday in Advent.
The four-week season marks the beginning of the Christian calendar and signals a period of waiting and patience in preparation for the commemoration of the birth of Christ.
“Today, our word is ‘wait,’” the Rev. Tracy Reeves told her congregation at the North Brewer-Eddington United Methodist Church in Eddington. “God does not come at our command. We wait on God, Scripture says.”
The 10 a.m. service at the historic roadside church included the traditional adorning of the sanctuary with evergreens, the lighting of the first of four Advent candles and the decoration of an evergreen tree with sacred symbols of the season.
In Christian tradition, evergreens symbolize eternity — “a sign that the faithful will experience endless life in fellowship with God in Jesus Christ,” Reeves said.
Candles symbolize the light of Christ shining through the world, and Advent candles, arranged within an evergreen wreath, are purple to remind believers of the royal family of David from which Jesus descended, despite his humble birth.
“The light these candles put forth may be small, but these flames, growing brighter each week as another candle is lit, stress the growing power of Christ Jesus over darkness,” Reeves said, as 4-year-old Brianna Jerome of Brewer carefully lit the first purple taper.
Other familiar sights of the season also have deep Christian significance, Reeves said in her sermon, including holly, which symbolizes the crown of thorns worn by Jesus when he was crucified, and familiar decorative symbols such as stars, angels, doves and crosses, which recall the life of Christ.
About 40 people attended the service, including a number of children and teens. The three sons of church lector Doug Gardner of Brewer and his wife, Lisa, usually head downstairs to Sunday school after the opening hymn, but on this special day they and most other youngsters stayed in the sanctuary for the entire service.
“It was more interesting than most services,” said Charlie Gardner, 14, during the social hour afterward. The boys, who come to church with their parents every Sunday, said they expect they’ll get a Christmas tree at home within a week or so.
The North Brewer-Eddington United Methodist Church, completed in 1846, will celebrate the next three Sundays of Advent at its regular 10 a.m. service, culminating with a Christmas Eve service at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 24.
In a new gesture to the community this year, the sanctuary will be open to the public for silent prayer and meditation from 5 to 7 p.m. Dec. 20, 21, 22 and 23 — an opportunity, Reeves said, for people to take time out from more secular Christmas preparations and reconnect with the peace and joy of the season.