Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Twenty Four Days of Christmas: Day Fifteen

As I was growing up my family always had Advent candles.  Evey year around Thanksgiving time we would go find some fir trees and delicately (!) hack a few small branches.  Mom would take these home and pull out the square of styrofoam (it was the same piece for as long as I could remember).  She would artistically twine and drape the branches into a circle (thus proving that a round wreath fits quite well onto a square styrofoam base).  There were holes in each corner and one in the middle.  As children we were quick to burn those holes a little "better" each year so that eventually Mom had to resort to little candle holders at each corner and in the middle.

We then went to Roses where we would look for four white candles and one red/purple/gold candle.

Et voila!  The wreath was ready for the first Sunday in Advent.  Five candles and five children.  How perfect!  Except that we always argued over who went last the year before.  Because whoever went last got to light the candles on CHRISTMAS DAY.  And by the way, got to light all five candles instead of a measly one.  So for once, we jostled and argued over who got to go last.  And who got to pinch the candles out after Sunday dinner.

I have tried to continue this tradition in my home.  It's a little different having just one child instead of five, but as a family the three of us have enjoyed this tradition over the years.

This year our church is lighting Advent candles each Sunday.  Mr. Marvelous and I were honored to light the second candle.  Up at the front of the church behind the pulpit are the banners celebrating the Advent candles.  Hope.  Love.  Joy.  Peace.

As we are walking through the Advent season, our pastor is using the Sunday School hour to talk about Advent in more detail.  Last Sunday I was struck by the progression of the candles.  Hope.  Love.  Joy.  Peace.

Think about that for a moment and let it sink in.

Think about the culture under Roman dominion and trying desperately to keep themselves separate.  Struggling to be obedient to the necessity of the Levitical law.  Hanging by a thread to the hope of God's promises.

Hope then finds its culmination in Love.

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Which circles back and increases the hope.

From love we move on to Joy.  How can one not be joyful at this expression of God's love?!  To no longer be constrained to perfectly keep the Levitical law.  To be freed from the guilt of knowing that my sin makes me odious, repugnant, and untouchable to God.  Happiness is found in our circumstances.  Joy is a soul-deep response to God's expression of love toward us and makes circumstances irrelevant.
That in turn circles back to increasing our love for God, and thus our hope.

Finally, that hope that comes from God's love and brings us rich joy works peace in our hearts and minds and lives.  Our busy attempts to earn God's love, our frenetic action to make ourselves happy; all are stilled in the peace that comes from the joy given by God.

The peace is so important that Jesus instructs his disciples to speak God's peace upon each household that they enter.   

In the center of the Advent wreath is one last candle of royal color.  This is the Christ candle.  Christ at the center, from which hope, love, joy and peace all flow.  

I know that there are different ways of arranging the progression of each candle.  There are probably twice as many ideas about the arrangement as there are churches who celebrate Advent!  But no matter how you arrange these the final result is the same.  As we celebrate with great joy the fact that Christ has come as our Messiah and Saviour, and the certainty that He is coming back, we are filled with hope, with the love that He demonstrated, with great joy, and with the peace that surpasses all human understanding.

May His peace fill your hearts, and rest and abide on your homes.

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