Lights in the Darkness: A Reflection on Advent Candlelighting
Illuminate This Season!
When all my family comes home for celebrations, it gets a bit noisy with the telling of funny stories and family jokes. No one but us would find these the least bit amusing. We all carry with us mental videos of what happened and how we felt. At the same time, we also have favorite quotes from favorite movies, that serve as family clichés. “I’ve got a brain cloud”, brings bursts of laughter every time, when used to describe our ills.
For me, these family times create snap-shot memories: little mental pictures that illuminate a memory. I have one of the family around the table for Christmas brunch. My adult twin sons sit beside each other, out of habit, and my daughter usually sits beside them. Her children sit between her and myself, while my husband sits at the head of the table, so he can talk with everyone, not just those beside him. No doubt, during this Christmas season, I’ll have lots of new mental snapshots to add to my collection. These are the memories that light up the holidays.
It occurred to me that Advent Candles serve the same purpose. Each illuminates a different picture of why I celebrate this season. It also lights my way to acting on what I believe.
The first candle, the candle of hope, shows me that even in the darkest days of my life, I always have hope. But am I using this light to illuminate the hope within me to the world around me? Often, I feel so very sad about what I see on the news or read about online. It seems the whole world has fissure, cracked right down the middle, dividing us by race, financial status, nationality, education, theological beliefs, morality, etc. This is where I’m called to illuminate the world around me with a spirit of hope, not defeat. It’s not over till it’s over and as a Christian, I know in the end there will be only one winner. I resolve to light my attitude with hope because I know God is with us and always will be.
The second candle is the candle of faith. In the past, I struggled with the concept that if I had faith, then hope was a moot point, because how could I have true faith if I was hoping, and not knowing, that God is hearing my prayer for help? Now I realize that hope is a lightness of spirit that comes from the anticipation that God will bring good from every prayer. The light from my faith is hope. I can’t have one without the other. It’s a dynamic action that gives me reason to be glad, hence glad tidings.
The third candle, representing joy, is one I often forget to light within myself. Lately, I’ve been reading about mindful meditation. I’m trying to generalize this practice, using mindfulness to illuminate moments throughout my day. It’s another kind of mental snapshot. I stop whatever I’m doing and look at every aspect of the moment: the smells, the sounds, and the setting. It’s like focusing a light on each element I observe. I feel a lightness that detaches me from the hurry/scurry of the season as I breath with the rhythmic tick of the clock. I wonder at the collective sound of dry leaves blowing against each other in the wind. What a beautiful noise. I observe how the illumination of the light changes the colors of objects in the room. The timeless smells of wood polish and books is comforting. What an amazing world God created, and I seldom stop to absorb it. But what joy I feel when I do.
The candle of peace is the last, completing the circle of the advent wreath. How fitting that the peace candle is the one that brings it all together. That’s how peace is. It’s infectious. Have you noticed how we are attracted to people who radiate peace? It’s a warm light that draws us together. When I meet someone with a peaceful countenance, I’ve often caught myself breathing out a long, soft sigh. It’s like finishing a book with a happy ending, only this isn’t the ending. It’s the “now”. That sense of peace in knowing God is with me, is the light I should be shining throughout this Advent season.
I’ve resolved to shine with the light of the hope, faith, joy and peace, that together are the hallmark of this time of year. If I can do that, I hope people will see in me the light of love, represented by the Christ candle in the center of the Advent wreath. Let the love of Christ guide you in illuminating this holiday season.
May the peace and love of Christ light your way.