Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
- John 8:12
Does your church observe Advent?
Advent, from the Latin Adventus meaning “coming” or “visit," is the first season of the Christian liturgical calendar. It anticipates, over the four Sundays preceding Christmas Day, our celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. During Advent, we remember the Jews’ historic longing for their Messiah, and God’s faithfulness in fulfilling his promise. We also look forward to the return of Jesus Christ, and the consummation of his Kingdom.
A historic part of Advent observance in many traditions is the Advent wreath. The evergreens of the Advent wreath symbolize the gift of new and everlasting life found only in Jesus Christ. Its four outer candles each represent various virtues associated with the birth of Jesus (for instance, hope, love, joy, and peace); these vary from tradition to tradition. Observers gradually light all four candles over the four weeks of the Advent season. They then light the inner candle, representing the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
The Advent wreath can be a nice way to remember and reflect upon the true meaning of Christmas. Oddly enough, it can also be a nice way to nearly burn down your church building. Trust me, I know.
After weeks of use during Advent services, little more than four wax stubs remained. Blithely unaware of how close their flames would burn next to the evergreens of the wreath, I went ahead and lit the candles - rather ceremoniously, I might add - at the start of the worship service.
Somewhere in the middle of my homily, flames broke out. I wish that I could say they were the flames of revival. They weren’t. They were actual flames. The Advent wreath was on fire!
At first, I didn’t see it. I only saw the glowing faces, wide-eyed looks, and energetic gesturing of some of my parishioners. Thankfully, as a Presbyterian, I immediately and instinctively knew something was wrong. In a more charismatic church, glowing faces, wide-eyed looks, and energetic gesturing might be signs of ministerial effectiveness. In a Presbyterian church, they’re usually a sign that something is wrong. In this case, that something was my literally blazing incompetence. The deacons rushed forward, averting disaster.
When I look back on that, I laugh - and not just because it’s a funny memory shared with people I love. I laugh because, in a way, that Advent wreath was the best one ever. If Advent wreaths symbolize the light of Christ coming into the world, shining ever wider and brighter, that one did its job - big time!
Child of God: This Advent, as we remember that Jesus is the “light in the world," remember also that he described you as the same (cf. John 8:12; Matthew 5:14)! In union with Christ, you now reflect his love and glory in a world filled with darkness.
Where can the hope of Jesus shine a bit brighter this holiday season? Where can his love warm cold hearts? Where can his joy restore perspective, helping souls look beyond their present circumstances for the source of true happiness? In the midst of which storms can his peace restore calm?
Remember: Jesus shines this Advent season, and therefore so do you - big time.
You’re loved. Don’t forget it.
If you'd like to subscribe to All Things New, a workweek devotional, click here! You can unsubscribe at any time.