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The First Sunday of Advent

By November 29, 2015 4 Comments

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. Isaiah 11:1

by Beth Carroll

The lie of divorce is that you only lose a spouse. But divorce is the gift that keeps on taking. You lose his family. You lose the sacredness of memories together. You lose your home and the artifacts that make it a home. You lose financial security. You lose the emotional security of your children. But a loss few anticipate is the loss of tradition. Nothing highlights this more than the first Christmas after a divorce. Jesus might be the reason for the season, but family is the tree that bears the fruit of that season. What happens when the family tree is severed in half?

Something new is needed to burst through the brokenness. That first holiday season, I bought an Advent wreath on a whim. Like holy smelling salts, the fragrance of the evergreen branches called out life, when all I knew was death. The wreath’s elegant candles pointing skyward needed me to ignite them if they were to be a light in my darkness. I took them home from the farmers’ market that cold Thanksgiving week, placed them on my kitchen table, and introduced them to my curious children. Visions of playing with matches danced in their heads.

The first night of Advent we gathered at the dinner table. We said a prayer. We read about the angel visiting Mary. We lit our first Advent candle and let the dim, warm light fill the darkness of the room and our hearts. Christmas would never be the same.

About Beth Carroll: If sarcasm were a spiritual gift, then I surely would be on the Christian bookstore speaking circuit right now. But because it is not, I am busy finishing up my theological training at Western Theological Seminary, while also working as Director of Youth Ministry at Hope Church in Holland, Michigan. I have two beautiful, intelligent, and equally sarcastic teen aged kids, who bring me much joy, as well as fodder for Facebook status updates. I also enjoy reading, running very slowly, and coming up with creative answers to people who ask about my naturally curly hair. Ask me about it some time; I dare you.

Beth Carroll

Rev. Beth Carroll is the Senior Pastor of Oakland City Church in Oakland, California. She is a graduate of Western Theological Seminary and Hope College, both in Holland, Michigan.  She is married to Richard Perez, who is a theatre artist, and she has three kids - Josiah, Natalie, and a cat named Kate Spade.


  • Phyllis Sroka says:

    So true. Separation with divorce on the horizon is painful. You get used to people and then they are gone.

  • says:

    Thank you for this, Beth. Heading into this holiday is painful this year. Something I have never considered is my own voice in how to celebrate this holiday. I would like to embrace this opportunity…perhaps with a wreath??

  • Jill says:

    Thank you, Beth. This is Christmas number three…it feels like the first real Christmas as a single person. The last two were blurred seasons of coping and adjusting. There is so much truth here and my longing is for faith communities/churches to offer more holistic support for families experiencing divorce/separation, especially during the holidays. After the loss of my mom this fall, we were blessed by the experience Hospice offered in early November to think through the changes that loss brings to long-held family traditions and how holidays impact grieving and healing. It was a helpful and holy time for my dad, my sister, and me. Your post prompts me to think more about this and how I might help my own church think through this more thoroughly. Thanks for the reminder of this post. I remember enjoying it last year and am grateful to read it again.

  • Darren Major says:

    Thank you for putting my experience into wonderful words. This will be my second Christmas on my own and it already feels better than 2015.

    New traditions have become like communion for me.

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