This second week of Advent, the second candle of Peace is lit. Together with the first, the Candle of Hope, it glitters against the early darkness. In so many ways, the frenzy of holiday preparation overshadows those two flames. But to stand back for even a moment, the glimmer opens up a larger picture: we are stronger together than we are alone. Light, even the flicker of a candle, offers new perspectives that eluded us before. Light gives us the chance to think about what we can see, what is present to and in us, and where and what we need to be. Light gives us the chance to make the winding road straight, to see the good works that are begun in each of us, and to dare to believe that love discerns what is of value. Light gives us the vision to face our fears and the courage to trust our perceptions, the gut instincts that open up new pathways and redefine the past.

Advent enables us to consider what has gone before, what is now, and what can be in the future. It is the invitation to believe deep down inside ourselves that we are loved, worthy and deserving of love, capable and daring enough to love. Life is diffcult, and love is mysteriously experienced in all sorts of ways. Truly believing that Love exists means thinking carefully about what love actually is. This second week of Advent links readings about love with a candle for peace: love is the way of peace and presence. Love is neither gratuitous nor self-aggrandizing; it is not deceitful or dishonest or duplicitous. It simply exists in real ways, gently, generously, bravely. And somehow, it makes the crooked ways straight. The “real thing” of love is that it is a God-given and brings the companionship of deep and abiding peace, the sense of “home”. In a universe often anchored in alienation and isolation, love ensures that we are better together than we are alone.

So much masquerades as love, and centuries show the agony of the way that humans torture one another in its name. There are agonizing choices and painful boundaries and limits to what humans are capable of. And then there are those almost incomprehensible, wondrous moments when all the stars align, and a glimpse of what love really is emerges with a genuineness and integrity that invites going deeper. Having that depth of trust, the commitment to honesty, the embrace of mutual respect makes it possible. It gives life purpose and direction, a confidence and clarity that illuminates every other aspect of human ineraction and experience. Love makes us who we are if we dare to believe, to experience, to know.

In so many ways, Advent is the beginning of that invitation to accept the existence of real love. Advent confides the truth that this love links the human and the divine in the very ordinary matters of each day. Advent gifts us with hope that the risk of loving and being loved is one worth taking.

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