This Sunday is the first in Advent, and many churches will light the first candle in the Advent wreath, with readings about hope and peace. As an additional candle is lit on each of the successive three Sundays, the figurative light in the darkness grows.
One candle won’t make much of a difference in a well-lit room. Even if the room were darkened, a single flame, though more visible, wouldn’t do much good.
The candle serves, though, as a strong symbol of watching and waiting in expectation and hope through the dark times.
Advent is about waiting. We talk to our children about waiting to open gifts. There are heavier kinds of waiting. I don’t know about you, but I’m honestly pretty tired of waiting—waiting for war to be over so we don’t have to send any more people into harm’s way; waiting for the end to terrorism so no one has to be afraid to get on an airplane; waiting for an end to abuse so that children and adults don’t have to be afraid in their own homes; waiting for the hungry to be fed and the jobless to find work; waiting for people to sit at the negotiating table to end violence in all the hot spots around the world; waiting for our own leaders to come to some helpful compromise.
Jesus said, “What I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.” [Mark 13]
We are still waiting, yes, but it is an active waiting. We have to stay awake, be alert and on the lookout for the movement of God.
And so together we light one candle, we stay awake, and we watch. We are watching for any signs of God, we are listening for the stirrings of the Spirit, we are participating in the life of justice. We are ready to catch the flame of this one candle and gently carry it wherever we go, taking hope with us to share.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2012