As a young woman raised in the Southern Baptist denomination, I knew nothing about Advent. As a teacher, I knew the meaning of the word, but it had no personal connection to my life. When I moved my family to Germany in 1969, our country was in turmoil with a controversial war in Vietnam, and riots in our streets. Teaching severely handicapped children at the American elementary school in Kaiserslautern was a step into a different world. I had invited new German acquaintances to join us for Thanksgiving; soon afterwards, they invited us for coffee at their home. In the center of the table was a beautiful Advent wreath. The couple explained that during the season, they liked to light the candles at home on Sunday afternoons as well as seeing them lighted in church. They lighted one candle and said a prayer. This simple ritual in their home touched my heart. German winters can be grey and cold. Lighting that candle truly expressed hope at a time when the world could look quite dark. I promptly bought small Swedish Advent candle holders of metal to send to all my relatives back home in the US. Lighting the candle weekly reminded us of the birth of a holy child who as a man spoke of peace and love for one’s neighbors. It brought the images of the sacred season to us in a fresh way. In Germany and France, one doesn’t see images of Santa Claus as often as we do here. There the Christ Child leads Father Christmas or Pere Noel sitting on the back of a donkey. These pictures speak to the true nature of the Advent cycle. Seeking a mindful experience of this sacred time allows us a deeper appreciation of the stories we hear and a clearer insight into the marvelous gift the world received in that long ago birth in Bethlehem. Let us light the candle and allow the light of love to shine in each of us.
Daily Reading: Luke 3:1-6
3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler[a] of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler[b] of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler[c] of Abilene, 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”’