For The Someday Book

Posts Tagged ‘Advent wreath

B and I made our own Advent wreath this year, to sit on the kitchen table. The kitchen table is regularly the dumping ground for junk mail, school artwork, receipts, stray gloves and not-yet-put-away purchases. Its proximity to the back door makes it everyone’s first stop and first view upon entering the house. Since the wreath has taken central place, though, it has seemed easier and more important to keep the table clear of unnecessary junk. It’s amazingly refreshing to my spirit to enter the house and see the Advent wreath, rather than a pile of mess that needs to be put away.

Last week, we lit the first candle and I talked with B about hope. Tonight, we lit the second candle and talked about peace. Even as we talked about the meaning of peace—ending war, getting along with friends, making sure everyone has enough—we could see our hope candle struggling to stay lit.  Smoke was pouring from it, but the flame was barely an ember on the wick. Watching the light struggle to survive, I contemplated how hard it often is for hope itself to stay strong against the darkness.

I reached for my camera to capture a picture. Before I could get the lens cap off, the candle suddenly exploded into a full flame of light, bigger and brighter than the peace candle next to it. Wax was pouring down the side of the candle, spilling over the holder. The flame had been dampened by all the old wax around the wick, unable to catch enough air to fully shine. Letting go of the junk released the light of hope again.

It was just like my kitchen table. Removing the junk to focus on the Advent wreath set me free to focus on the hope and peace of the season.

Even more, it is just like my soul. Hope gets stifled by all sorts of junk—old hurts, built-up anxieties, piled-on worries, and overwhelming circumstances that make us feel like we just can’t get any air. Yet the tiniest flame of hope, even the one that looks like it’s too small to survive, can be enough to throw off all that mess and explode into light.

The ritual of lighting the Advent candles is always dicey. Recruiting busy families and young children for the task means you never rehearse and always just wait and hope it will go smoothly. This morning, the Second Sunday of Advent, the nine-year-old and her grandmother did an excellent job with the short readings, but got a bit confused about lighting the candles. Instead of lighting just two purple candles, they lit all three.

I felt my heart lurch out–no, not yet! We’re not ready for three candles to be lit, for Christmas to be closing in so fast! Let me linger a little longer in the darkness, in the hesitancy, in the waiting. Let me sit quietly with the uncertainty and the yearning and the anticipation. I felt tempted to sneak over and blow out that extra purple candle.

The Spirit must have felt the same way. It just wasn’t time yet. While two purple candles blazed brightly throughout the whole service, that third candle struggled and flickered dimly. If I hadn’t been seated so close, I wouldn’t have been able to discern that it was lit at all.

Advent is all about “not-yet.” Christ is coming–but not yet. God will come again to redeem us–but not yet. God’s hope, peace, joy and love will rule heaven and earth–but not yet. Like Mary, we must wait for the birth to come in God’s time. The Holy One knows what she is doing.

I am content, for now, with that “not-yet” to remain awhile longer.

About Me

I am a full-time pastor in the United Church of Christ, mother of a young child (B.), married to an aspiring academic and curmudgeon (J.). I live by faith, intuition and intellect. I follow politics, football and the Boston Red Sox. I like to talk about progressive issues, theological concerns, church life, the impact of technology and media, pop culture and books.

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