Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
November 22, 2004
Advent opens our eyes to Christmas
Light One Candle
As you probably know, our motto here at The Christophers is "It's better to light one candle than to curse the darkness." So noticing candles has become second nature for me. And this time of year, that includes Advent wreaths. I'm always glad to see them in churches, but I particularly enjoy finding them in homes.
The Advent wreath is not only a ring of evergreens with four candles, but it's also a symbol of light shining in the darkness and of a season that gets too little attention. Halloween is over and already Christmas is on everyone's mind. This would be wonderful if we were talking about a straightforward celebration of the birth of Jesus, but in our overly-complex society it seems that Christmas has become much more a holiday than a holy day.
I'm afraid that in our efforts to have it all, we lose something. The weeks leading up to Dec. 25 have become huge to-do lists with so many items to check off, so many tasks to finish: Shop. Decorate. Cook. Travel. Party. Sing. Eat. Drink. Be merry.
There's nothing wrong with any of these things. In fact there's a lot that's right with choosing presents for loved ones, visiting with friends and relatives, and generally trying to make the time of year something special and memorable for ourselves and all who are near and dear to us.
It's just that whatever we do, however much we accomplish, it's never quite enough. Maybe that's why so many people seem to get more out of the anticipation of Christmas than the day.
That's why I believe Advent is so important. Every time I see an Advent wreath, I hope that the purple and pink candles are more than mere decorations, even more than an appealing religious devotion. It strikes me that this custom, this symbol of a season whose name means coming, is just what we need to help us prepare our minds and our souls, not just our bodies and feelings, for the coming of our Saviour.
Think about a candle. Its glow means nothing in the daylight. It is only in the darkness that candlelight enables us to see and calms our fear of the unknown and unseen. And through the illumination of Advent our eyes are opened to Christmas not only as a happy and holy day, but also as the confluence of faith, hope and love in time and eternity.
Of course, we know that the heart of Christmas is a celebration of Jesus' birth. As if welcoming the Son of God were not enough for us, he comes bearing the gifts of life, love and eternity. I believe, also, that we need to recognize everything from which God spares us and saves us: sin and evil, and, even, perhaps, ourselves.
Why ourselves? Because we who desire, even demand, so much out of life, still seem condemned to low expectations. Many times, we are all too willing to settle for second best: packages under a tree, instead of gifts from the heart; holiday feasts instead of a nourished soul; Santa Claus instead of Jesus Christ.
Advent keeps us focused on the coming of the Messiah, the Son of God and our own coming as well - out of the darkness and into the light.
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Gifts of the Spirit, Gifts from the Soul, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY 10017; or e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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