by Joanie Butman
Our family is lighting the Advent wreath at church this morning. We were invited to participate prior to my nephew’s tragic death. However, in light of recent events, I can’t think of a more appropriate year for us to be chosen for this privilege. Ordinarily, I don’t think my grown children would have agreed (it is a 9AM service), but they are participating to honor Myles. We all are. This year more than ever, we cling to the hope those candles represent.
Fortunately, the powers that be in the congregation are unaware of our family’s inauspicious history with lighting Advent wreaths at home. Aside from the occasional flame mishaps, my beautiful porcelain nativity figurine candle holders were chipped and broken over the years during the sibling squabbles over whose turn it was to light the candle. This rivalry continued LONG after you’d expect children to age out of such behavior. By that time, the angels had been de-winged, Mary and Joseph were missing limbs, and one of the Wise Men was beheaded. I finally surrendered and decided it was causing more angst than blessings and left it in the closet. In hindsight, this was probably not my wisest parenting choice because it’s in the midst of conflict that we need the hope of Christmas to shine the brightest.
So you can see why we are the most unlikely candidates to be lighting the fourth candle of Advent – the candle of peace. In the Catholic tradition it’s known as the Angel’s Candle or the Candle of Love. It recalls the Christmas message of the angels: “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.”* Definitely not something that abounded in our house during the nightly lighting of the Advent wreath. By now, we have either completed our mission without incident or have gone down in the annals of church lore.
We may not have a good track record with our Advent wreath efforts, but I suppose our less-than-perfect performance makes us excellent candidates to participate in a tradition celebrating the coming of Christ. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t need a Savior. It's only when we fully appreciate how flawed we are that the miracle of Christmas becomes personal. It’s in Christ that our hope resides, which is what we embrace as we light the candles today. Only He can infuse healing light into broken hearts, broken bodies and broken world, bringing peace and joy regardless of our circumstances.
I will leave you with the script we were given to read as we lit the fourth candle of Advent. May you all be blessed by its message.
Lighting of the Candle
We light this candle to proclaim the coming of the
light of God into the world.
With the coming of this light there is love.
Such great love helps us to love God and one another.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Angel's full message:
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:8-12 (NIV)