First Candle

Advent 2022. Another opportunity to step back, breathe deeply, and re-explore all that has gone before. That is such a different journey for each of us. Children are already heady with excitement over the upcoming holiday, dancing with the mythical magic of Santa Claus. There are young adults learning to be couples and families and singles filled with a swirl of what is known and what could be in the realms of infinite possibility. There are the older adults squirming with being caught between what is known in their own experience and the memories of time past. And there are the seniors among us who waltz through the decades of what has already unfolded for them, what they have made of life and living and the next chapters that will record their final days. It is only now that I have come to realize how Advent belongs to each of us just as we are, where we are and how we are. Advent, after all, is really about love.

The second reading from the letter to the Thessalonians opens with:

May the Lord make you increase and abound in love
for one another and for all,
just as we have for you, 
so as to strengthen your hearts

Maybe Advent is really about the assurance that God’s is an unconditional acceptance of who we are and how we are. Maybe it is the prelude to a deepening sense that each of us is lovable, beloved, and unconditionally connected to something far beyond who we are. Maybe the first flickering flame of an Advent candle warms the cold and darkness of struggle at each stage of life. Maybe it has just enough steady strength to help us find footing in times of uncertainty and confusion and maybe it glows so effortlessly to reassure us that we matter and what we do, how we live, matters. Every year, that first light is the invitation to become that person who lives in certainty with self-confidence and the courage to deal with Life’s inevitable complexities.

This year, as new generations take the reins for the future, there is a singular grace in the length of Advent, the days of reflection stretching into fullness. Perhaps it is the accident of the calendar, but maybe it is something more as well. While the frenetic holiday season devours calm and quiet, the simplicity of candlelight speaks of something so much more. It is an unadorned, quiet invitation. We are free to accept, to embrace that. There is the chance to look past all the stressors and all the layered doubt and fear and know the vividness of a God who dared become man, who dares us to the same, and invites us to share the miracles of being. In the softness of candle light, we have the chance to think deeply about what it means to be human, whole, known and accepted. There is no coercion in the allure of light, but there is the promise. At every stage of life, there is so much more to see. Candlelight illuminates the truth and leads us to more. Happy Advent!

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