My friend Christian and his family are lighting the next Advent candle this week at church and as a result he went on a quest of sorts to uncover what Advent is and means. We have these discussions from time to time over coffee and projects and while we didn’t really sit down and talk this one out, he made me think. After almost a week, I think I’ve finally landed. Advent = Adventure. But not a machete wielding, wildlife surviving, pith helmet required adventure. This is a much quieter, spiraling, seeking adventure.
A few years ago I saw an Advent spiral in Ann Voskamp’s shop that has seared itself in my mind and heart. The circular draw of the spiral speaks movement to me. Many refer to the season of Advent as a season of waiting but I think for me, it means moving. God moved closer to us by coming to earth in the infant Jesus. Just the same we can move closer to Him with our heart approach and adoption of what the four candles represent.
The first candle is Hope. I think we can all agree that this is a good place to start. Christian or not, we all hope for something better, more meaningful, different, more fun or (insert your own thought here) for our lives. We want a better job; a more peaceful family; a crisis averted; a loss recovered. We want those things and we hope they will happen for us. We believe they can happen for us. And we wait for that hope to be realized. And that’s when we move forward.
Love comes next and let’s face it, that is one of the things we hope for, right? We hope our love is the real deal when we are in a relationship. We know our love is the real deal when we are parents. We pray that our children will find true love when they are adults. But love when we find it, becomes all our hopes realized and in living color. When we find that better job that we were hoping for, we quickly “love” what we do. It’s so much easier to love our families when they are peaceful and we appreciate those we love when the crisis is passed and the lost is found. And then we move forward.
It’s not hard to see how Hope realized by Love gives way to Joy. I mean, we got what we wanted right? We have what our hearts were longing for so of course we are going to be full of Joy! It never fails to amuse me that the joy candle is usually pink while all the others are purple or blue. Seeking, finding and then celebrating. And that is as it should be so we move forward.
And we find ourselves at Peace. We have hoped for something. It has been given to us and we celebrated. Now we rest and we are at peace with our lives and sit in the calm and stillness of the moment not craving any longer and not chasing after anything. We are still and quiet. Funny that this is the candle that is closest to the end. In our culture this candle is usually lit when families are at their most frenzied pace and moms are the most stressed and kids are wired because school is about to be out and all the magic of Christmas is about to explode. But we light the peace candle and are supposed to be in our quietest and most still moment.
Why? Because we have one candle left. The Christ candle. If I had my way the Christ candle would not be just one candle and it wouldn’t be in the center of the wreath. It would be four candles and they would alternate with the other four in one continuous circle.
We Hope for a more meaningful existence because we know that what is here on earth is just not enough. Something in our core craves a connection, a belonging, an unconditional acceptance that has no strings or expectations or requirements. It is to be able to be as we are and still a treasure to Someone. So God sends Jesus.
And in His arrival we realized that He is destined to be our ultimate penance, sacrifice, debt payment and that He is doing it willingly out of pure, true and unconditional Love.
We look at Jesus and we see the gift of our Easter redemption and the gate of forgiveness swings wide open. We have access to be as we are and know that we are a treasure to Someone. And our hearts and minds and bodies flush with Joy.
So we bow down – no, fall down – face first at the feet of Jesus in overwhelming gratitude but our words cannot even begin to explain our hearts. The groanings of our spirit try to express to God how profoundly we love the gift He has given but we are rendered speechless and still. So we lay in complete Peace.
In the straw. In a cave. While shepherds heed angels and kings cross mountains.
Then we rise and we move forward. We find another Hopeful soul seeking Love. And we share in their Joy and smile at their Peace.
Because there, in the center of it all, is Jesus.
Hope promised: Isaiah 9:6
Love presented: Luke 2:12
Joy proclaimed: Luke 2: 17, 18 & 20
Peace possessed: Luke 2:19