Repetition has gotten a bad name somewhere along the line. In today’s culture, we celebrate the new and the instantaneous. Often we view repetition as a consequence of having failed in our first attempt at something.
Yet repetition is a key ingredient of art and worship. In art, we find form in a piece of music by hearing the repeated sections, often a repetition with some variation. We delight in the repetitions of a poem’s rhyme scheme. The repetition of patterns engages our eye, whether it be the design of a quilt or the flash of screen-savers.
More fundamentally, our lives in worship are lived in a series of repetitions. We honor God’s commandment with the seven-day week and a repeated observance of the Sabbath. We rejoice each year at Christmas to repeat those traditions that we find most meaningful, to tell the same story, to place the same Nativity Scene in its honored spot, to prepare the same meals.
And so we return to the Advent Wreath! The ceremonial lighting of the second candle is traditionally performed by the oldest child. The child first lights the candle that was lit on week one, and then lights a second, purple candle. It is a repetition of last week with a new variation. And yes, there are prayers designed for this date, like this one:
Merciful God, who sent thy messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.Amen.
Encourage your children to participate in this ceremony, not only with lighting candles, but with the readings or adding their own prayers. Emphasize that, in observing the tradition of this second Sunday in Advent, you unite with millions of Christians going back hundreds of years. It’s a repetition, but it becomes new, because it is being done by you.
Repetition teaches us the substance and beauty of traditions. You can be sure your children will mark well and learn which things you honor by observing the repetitions of worship in your home.