Each week in church we light a new candle to recognize the season of Advent. We light these candles, and remember the different themes that have traditionally been assigned to each week of Advent, hope, peace, joy and love. But has this act become something we do out of tradition and monotony more than out of intention? Are we chancing the Advent wreath becoming womething like Christmas lights and the Christmas tree? They look pretty, but WHY do we REALLY take time to put all these things up?
Don't get me wrong, I have a Christmas tree up, and a few "Nutcracker" decorations (after dancing in it for so long I can hardly not!), but why do we really put them up? They might remind us of the times we had Christmas trees when we were younger. Or I always remember the times that my whole family was present to put up the tree, and we always fought over who got to hang THE "baby's first Christmas" ornament up, even though it clear had a 1982 date on there. (I'm sure my sister and brother got one of those, but for some reason, mine was coveted!) And I'm sure if you have children, its simply out of the question to NOT put up a Christmas tree - but what are all of our Christmas traditions really representing?
Most Christmas traditions started out with great intentions, and were quite meaningful things at the time. But OVER time, we chance getting stuck in the monotony of a tradition and forgetting why we are REALLY doing it, rather only doing it because "that's what we've done before." All traditions - especially those at church - but all traditions risk this... Christmas is no different.
As we light Advent candles on Sunday mornings, or on Sunday evenings at home with our families, or anytime throughout Advent, I hope we all continue to take time to pause and remember why we are lighting Advent candles. As darkness (both real and metaphorical darkness) deepens, and as the long winter comes, each week we light one more candle to remember our hope for the coming light. And while each candle might mean something, hope, peace, joy, love, may we remember the simplicity of even lighting the candles. The action of lighting one more candle in the darkness bears the most meaning. In the face of growing darkness, the church and its community participates in practices which bring more light. May we think of our own faith communities as a circle, imaging ourselves as our Advent wreath, that we are the ones to bear the light of Christ. Each week may we bring more light into the darkness, bearing the light which we know will come to us on Christmas day.