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Christ Candle :: Christmas Eve for Advent

This is the final part of a series of Advent Sunday night candle meditations. 

Advent Jesus

Isaiah 9:2-7

The people who walk in darkness
   will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness,
    a light will shine.
You will enlarge the nation of Israel,
    and its people will rejoice.
They will rejoice before you
    as people rejoice at the harvest
    and like warriors dividing the plunder.
For you will break the yoke of their slavery
    and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders.
You will break the oppressor’s rod,
    just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian.
The boots of the warrior
    and the uniforms bloodstained by war
will all be burned.
    They will be fuel for the fire.

For a child is born to us,
    a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
    And he will be called:
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace
    will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
    for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
    will make this happen!

Last Sunday, we had an early Christmas with my sister and her family because they are visiting her husband’s side of the family for the holidays. We exchanged our gifts with each other before a big meal. Of course, we all ate appys and snacks and treats all afternoon long so by the time the lasagna was on the table, we were all stuffed and just eating because it tasted good. But before we began, we lit the last Sunday candle of our Advent wreath as a family.

Right at the beginning of the Advent season in an effort to cut down on quarrelling, each of the tinies claimed a candle – Joseph always lit Hope, Evelynn lit Peace, Anne lit Joy, and Maggie Love was in charge of the Love candle (well, she’s just 9 months old but whatever, the tinies wanted her to have a candle, too). We would pass around the Bible and the older ones read the verses aloud for us and we just talked about what it meant for us and for the world. This is the first year that all of the tinies really got it, if you know what I mean. Years past, they were present for the lighting of the candles but there was more bickering about whose turn it was to blow them out than any reverence or any real sense of the story. So we’ve pared it down and kept it simple. We just light them and we read a couple of Bible verses (the same ones that are in each of the posts for this series) and then we talk about it and someone prays. That’s it.

We asked the tinies to explain the candles on this last Sunday night..

Joseph said that we light the hope candle because Jesus is our hope, because we hoped for Jesus then and now we’re hoping for Jesus to come again.

Evelynn said that we light the peace candle because Jesus brings peace and gives peace and is peace. Hearing those words in her childish voice brought tears to my eyes as I’ve been so haunted by the refugee crisis this year: we are still yearning for peace.

Anne said that we light the joy candle because Jesus is our joy and gives us joy and we’re all so happy he came to us once and he will come again to fix everything.

And then we asked the little cousins to light the Love candle for Maggie and tell us why it’s called Love and they both laughed and talked about how Jesus brings Love to the whole world because God is love.

We let the tinies read the Bible verses and I looked down the table at my father, his once curly red hair now a close-cropped white, holding the Bible open for my son, listening to Joe read about the love of God towards us all. My parents were very young when they had me and my sister so I remember my parents at the age that I am now, of course, but I also remember them when they were in their twenties and then in their thirties when they began to follow Jesus.

I was a kid about the age of my own tinies when that happened; they reoriented their entire lives and our family story on Jesus Christ. He changed everything in them and for them. He brought that hope, that joy, that peace, that love to their lives from the inside out and I walk in the legacy they created by that choice.

I always feel very tender-hearted towards the first-generation believers, the ones who change the family narrative because it isn’t easy in a lot of ways. It’s been more than thirty years since Jesus turned everything right-side-up for my folks and I felt the weight of that choice at the table that night, watching all this little kid crew, another generation, all perched around my kitchen table by the light of candles in the darkness, telling us grown-ups all the things we already knew about Jesus.

Jesus was everything to us in those days and yet somehow I lost touch with him as I grew up. I think I confused Jesus with church or with Christians or with the Bible or some boundary markers to figure out who was “in” and who was “out.” Rediscovering Jesus later in my adulthood meant another reorientation for me, too: Jesus turned my life right-side-up, too.

“Jesus. His name felt like every question and every answer. There was a strain of something like unearthly music to His name, and part of me still believes that my desire to be like Jesus was the Spirit’s call – deep calling unto deep, as the psalmist wrote. My broken heart – cynical, jaded, frustrated, angry, wounded – somehow exhaled at the very mention of his name.” (from Out of Sorts)

I know that everyone experiences Jesus differently or has a different story of their encounters with Jesus – I have dozens myself.

That night though… gathered around the table with the two people who first introduced me to Jesus and then seeing my own children proclaim the Gospel to us all, declaring that Jesus was hope and joy and peace and love, I felt like laying down on the floor and crying because Jesus is as good as we ever hoped and it’s all true and everything was rescued on that night in Bethlehem and it will all be restored fully someday soon.

I used to think that this Christmas Eve stuff for Advent was the final stroke of midnight before New Year’s Eve turned into the New Day: a shout, a celebration, pour the champagne! Let the party begin! He’s here, he’s Emmanuel, the Incarnation has taken place among us! Turn up the music!

But since having my children, I’ve felt much more like that moment of time and space will be more like how it was when I gave birth to my last little one: pain and labour and a sifting, grief and loss and joy and strength, failure and victory, all braided together. And then that moment of birth being one of complete relief and release and joy, yes, but instead of popping champagne corks or bursting into laughter, I cried from the core of myself, like some ancient writer said I lifted up my voice and I wept, because she was finally here and we were alive and we were safe and I felt held by the God-with-us; it was the most human and most sacred thing I’d ever done in my life, it felt like a glimpse of Incarnation.

This Christmas Eve, we will light the Christ Candle, the white candle right in the middle of the wreath of our hopes, and we will read the Scriptures here, and we’ll talk about Jesus. Then we’ll let those candles burn right down because the promises have been fulfilled, Jesus Christ is born, and He is all the good news we could ever dream of hearing. Crack open your alabaster jars and spill all the expensive perfume, fling yourself down and grab the hem of his garment, sit on the beach after you’ve failed and when Jesus says, do you love me? we can all say, you know all things Jesus, you know I love you.

The light – the hope, the joy, the peace, the love – is among us now.

Life, life, life, more abundant. Welcome the King.

Luke 2:8-20

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Saviour—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.  All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

All scripture references are from The New Living Translation.

The Full Advent Series

Courage! Take heart! God is here, right here! :: Why Advent Matters

First Sunday: Hope

Second Sunday: Peace

Third Sunday: Joy

Fourth Sunday: Love

Christmas Eve: The Christ Candle

Continue Reading · advent, christmas, faith, jesus · 5

Love :: Fourth Sunday of Advent

This is the fourth part of a series of Advent Sunday night candle meditations. 

Advent Love :: Sarah Bessey

Isaiah 16:4-5

“When this is all over,” Judah answers, “the tyrant toppled, The killing at an end, all signs of these cruelties long gone, A new government of love will be established in the venerable David tradition. A Ruler you can depend upon will head this government, A Ruler passionate for justice, a Ruler quick to set things right.”

John 3:16-17

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.

John 3:34-36

“The One that God sent speaks God’s words. And don’t think he rations out the Spirit in bits and pieces. The Father loves the Son extravagantly. He turned everything over to him so he could give it away—a lavish distribution of gifts. That is why whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever! And that is also why the person who avoids and distrusts the Son is in the dark and doesn’t see life. All he experiences of God is darkness, and an angry darkness at that.”

John 15:9-15

“I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love. I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.

If I saw my beloved children entangled, oh, God, I would cut away every thicket to reach them with my bare hands, crying out that I was coming for them with every breath. I wouldn’t rest, God help anyone who would stand in my way.

I would tear away all of it until I had them in my arms, I would laugh and I would cry at the moment of rescue, that gut deep howl of at last. I would snatch them up and kiss their sweaty and scratched necks, you’re safe now, I’m here, I’m here.


Here is what I think: Maybe God doesn’t so much want things from us.

Maybe God actually wants things for us.

After all, God imagined us for love and for beauty, for life and for wholeness, for goodness and for mercy. You were made in the image of God. The Holy Spirit stirred over the waters, deep calling to deep.

God yearns like a father, like a mother, for us to be free.

God is Love, yes, and so God wants to lavish friendship and meaning and abundant life upon us, to help us to see this old world like the new world God envisions.

God wants us to be truly human, the way Jesus walked for and with us. Even the wrath of God isn’t something to fear, but something to welcome – that wrath is coming against the very things in us that bring death and destruction.

You, dear one, you’re not being condemned. You’re being rescued.

This whole story is about how you were so loved and you are so loved and you will always be this loved: look, the cosmos testify to it.


God doesn’t want much from me: God wants so much for me.

See there? The difference?

Start there. Start with the Love and with the freedom, with the grace and the wisdom, with the abundance, and suddenly those other things are simply an overflow instead of a sacrifice.


Open your hands and surrender. Cut away the thickets. Hand over your apathy and your loneliness, your never-enough and your too-much. Lay down your sin and the things you do to numb yourself against feeling it all. Toss down your pride and your greed, your selfishness and your me-first, those things aren’t for you. What are they but fetters? Can anything hold up against the fury of a God who wants you free, wants you restored, wants you to see that you are loved loved loved.

God is for you, Love is for you. The only thing God wants from you are the chains that are holding you back. Hand them over, they’ve already been unlocked, you get to walk away free.


God is for us. Never against us.

I’m not working for God. I’m working with God. We’re on a rescue mission, we’re on a setting-things-right all-things-redeemed mission.

We’re not trying to wrestle paltry gifts from a reluctant deity, counting coins in the counting house, viewing our lives as a sheet of checks and balances. You’ve been caught in a war zone, not a bank.

The spreadsheets have been tossed out, there is only welcome now.

The counting house doesn’t exist, there is only the supper of the Lamb and there is room for everyone.

Run towards grace, towards shalom. As the Apostle Paul said in Hebrews 12, throw off everything that holds you  back – it is holding you back!

Add everything back, everything that has been stolen will be restored.

God is not serving gifts of stone or snake for the children who ask, there is only a Father of Lights handing out bread and wine to the entire hillside, this is a party.

Open the gates.

1 John 4:9-10

This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.

All scripture references are from The Message.

Devotion adapted from this post.

The Full Advent Series

Courage! Take heart! God is here, right here! :: Why Advent Matters

First Sunday: Hope

Second Sunday: Peace

Third Sunday: Joy

Fourth Sunday: Love

Christmas Eve: The Christ Candle

Continue Reading · advent, christmas, faith · 4

Joy :: Third Sunday of Advent

Advent Joy :: Sarah Bessey

Isaiah 35:10

Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.

Isaiah 49:13

Sing for joy, O heavens! Rejoice, O earth! Burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on them in their suffering.

Luke 1:8-11

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Saviour—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!

Here is the thing with Christian joy: it isn’t stupid.

I know, I know. We would never say that out loud. But some part of us wonders if the joyful ones are just a bit … fake. Or if they’re disengaged with reality or if they are naive. Perhaps they stick their heads in the sand. Perhaps they are just a bit dumb about how hard it is in this life, about the heartbreak and the sorrow, about the evil and injustice. Joy must be a bit blind to reality, right?

I get it and I’ve felt that, too. After all, I wrote a whole chapter in my book about reclaiming lament as a response to those very things. Learning to obey the sadness has been a transformative thing for me.

And yet.

I can’t escape joy. I can’t escape the exhortations of joy, the call to joy, the prayer for joy, the yearning for joy in Scripture and in the Spirit and in the Christian tradition. Joy! Laughter, song, dance, life, goodness, hope overflowing.

Joy isn’t emotionally or spiritually or intellectually dishonest. Christian joy doesn’t mean that we are sticking our heads in the sand and saying, “it’s fine, we’re fine, everything’s fine” while running past the gutter of broken dreams, eyes averted.

Joy isn’t denial of grief or pretending happiness.

Now, now I know this: joy is the affirmation of the truest thing in this life.

Joy is born, not from pretending everything is fine, but from holding both hope and truth together. The Christian can stand in that liminal space, the place of grief, even there with joy. Why? Because joy is the affirmation of the thing that is truer than any trouble, any affliction: the affirmation that Love wins. Jesus is as good as we hope, it’s all worth it, and all will be redeemed.

Almost all of our theology – and therefore our practical lives – has its roots in what we believe about the nature and character of God. It all tracks back. And really, if we want to know what God looks like, we can look to Jesus. That’s what the Bible tells us. Jesus was meant to clarify, to answer the questions, to clean up the dirty window through which we kept trying to behold the holy. Hebrews 1:3 states that Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.”

So I didn’t learn how to practice joy until I learned to practice grief, and I didn’t learn how to do either one of those things well until I learned that God can be trusted.

Jesus is as good as we hope, and everything for which you are longing – love, joy, peace, justice, mercy, home, good work – is real because it rooted in God’s heart for us. Those are gifts from a good good Father. God is against the evil and suffering in this world. He is not the origin of evil nor does God “use” evil as a means to justify some cosmic end. 

I couldn’t trust God if I suspected God was behind our deepest griefs and injustices. This is where the sovereignty conversations get interesting, I know. But I don’t blame God for much anymore. I see God as the rescue from the injustices, not the cause of them. I see God as the redeemer of the pain, not the origin of it. I see sovereignty, not as hyper-control over the minute and painful details of the world, but as a faithful promise that all things will be restored, all things will be redeemed, all will be rescued.

So as the people of God, the ones whose citizenship lies in the Kingdom of God, we are part of the resistance, the overcoming of them, the redemption and hope in the midst of them because they are the antithesis of the character of God. Why? Because THAT is God’s heart. That is God’s nature.

Sovereignty is a promise – not a threat or a reason. All will be held and that God is at work to bring redemption and reconciliation, and at the end of all things, we don’t escape from the goodness that pursues us, the life we are promised, the love that redeems. 

Joy is born out of trust and hope and gratitude and faith in that coming Kingdom. We have a reason to rejoice. And it’s not denial or innocence or naivety or stupidity. Joy is the affirmation of the truest thing of all: redemption, restoration, reconciliation.

The joy of the Lord is rooted in the now and the not-yet of the Kingdom of God.

When Christ returns and sets all things right and heaven is established on earth, there will be no more tears, no more sorrows, no more good-byes. The kingdom will be a reunion, a shocking and wild oh-hallelujah-at-last gathering. The castoffs of our world – those whom our culture disdains and discards and disappoints and devastates – will lead the laughter and the dance. Part of our worship must be wiping the tears from every face, the labour of drawing buckets from the well of salvation to water the tired soil into renewal.

It’s messages of joy and open gates to welcome our children coming home from war, their swords forgotten, assault rifles discarded. It’s a rich harvest of exiles gathered from all the nations, refugees finding home, weapons are beaten into ploughshares, we’re not fighting anymore, we’re farming.

This is the world we are prophesying with our very lives.

Our joy is rooted in this hope and in this confidence: our Abba is steadily putting things right. God will not tire, God hasn’t fallen asleep on the job, and God will not quit. Jesus has not forgotten you. We are a people of life, not death.


Our joy is rooted in truth and that truth is the nature and character of God. Whatever we face, joy is the truest thing and this is not the end.

May your joy overflow.

John 15:9-11

I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

Colossians 1:11-12

We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.

This is the third part of a series of Advent Sunday night candle meditations. 

The Full Advent Series

Courage! Take heart! God is here, right here! :: Why Advent Matters

First Sunday: Hope

Second Sunday: Peace

Third Sunday: Joy

Fourth Sunday: Love

Christmas Eve: The Christ Candle

*portions of this post are excerpted from both Jesus Feminist and Out of Sorts

Continue Reading · advent, christmas, faith · 11

Peace :: Second Sunday of Advent

Advent Series - Peace by Sarah Bessey

Luke 2:8-14

There were sheepherders camping in the neighbourhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Saviour has just been born in David’s town, a Saviour who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.” At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:

Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

John 14:25-27

“I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.

Romans 15:13

Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!


It was pitch dark outside and the rain was pouring down in sheets as we drove home from the mall after our Groupon-inspired session with the Sears photographer for the Christmas photos of the tinies. I steered our grey minivan down our town’s streets, bumper to bumper with red taillights that glowed against the water droplets on the windshield, blinding me with their speed. Whump, whump, whump went the wiper blades at a fast pace. The chatter of my children filled the car – because whoever wrote Silent Night didn’t have a van-load of tinies – and I tried to tune them out in order to pay attention to the treacherous road conditions. I could barely see out of the windows. Whump, whump, whump. The final notes of the carol are barely audible through the downpour. The water drummed on the roof of the vehicle. A new song begins and I hydroplane just a bit, gently tapping my brakes and steering into the slide before righting us again.

“Wait, wait, guys, quiet down for a sec – what song is this?”

Peace on earth, good will to men,

the bells are ringing, like a choir they’re singing,

in my heart I hear them,

peace on earth, good will to men…

What is there to do when you hear those words in these days? I made a noise somewhere between a laugh and a sob, myself. This is how it feels sometimes, right now in particular. We can feel or hear the score of peace but the rain is pouring and the cars are flying past and we are gripping the steering wheel just trying to get home.

I believe that peace-making is more in step with Jesus than peace-keeping. I believe in the voices crying in the wilderness, prophesying with their lives about the Kingdom of God. I believe we will see swords beaten into ploughshares but it won’t happen by magic – poof! – but instead it will be because we realized that it’s us, and we are it, and get to the good work of following Jesus and embodying the peace we have found.

I believe that peace begins with forgiveness and conversation and reconciliation, oh, I believe in miracles, I’m so ridiculous. I believe that small acts of peace are still acts of peace.

I believe in creating peace, in disrupting for peace, in the truth that peace isn’t always polite and it certainly isn’t status quo and it isn’t always cozy with twinkle lights and it will make people uncomfortable because they’re so used to benefitting from the lack of it.

I believe peace is hard fought in the corners of our own hearts long before it’s demonstrated and enacted. I believe in a peaceful imagination that dares towards joy and hope and challenges the way it is and the way it’s always been and the way it will likely always be done. I believe that the Holy Spirit is more than enough within us. I believe that Jesus wasn’t stupid or naive or “just didn’t get what it means to be alive these days.” 

I believe that Jesus transforms us, even our desires and our thoughts, into who we were meant to be all along. I believe that evil and sin and violence and brutality of all sorts are all cancers in us, killing us all. And that only Love cures such things, only love can pull out the tentacles of these cancers.

I believe Advent reminds me that peace was announced then and peace was promised and that peace is our birthright and our endgame and our wholeness at last. I believe in singing a song of peace, declaring that God is not dead nor does God sleep, in the midst of a thunderstorms.

Because peace is what God announced at the birth of God-self among us: peace! Peace on earth!

And peace is what we are headed towards, what we believe in and what we practice. Peace is what Jesus left with us and so look, here in my hands, I am holding the steering wheel of one tiny vehicle and I am steering us all home and all the way there, watch me, I’m singing in the dark and in the storm.

Psalm 85:10-13

Love and Truth meet in the street, Right Living and Whole Living embrace and kiss! Truth sprouts green from the ground, Right Living pours down from the skies! Oh, yes! God gives Goodness and Beauty; our land responds with Bounty and Blessing. Right Living strides out before him, and clears a path for his passage.

This is the second part of a series of Advent Sunday night candle meditations. 

The Full Advent Series

Courage! Take heart! God is here, right here! :: Why Advent Matters

First Sunday: Hope

Second Sunday: Peace

Third Sunday: Joy

Fourth Sunday: Love

Christmas Eve: The Christ Candle

All Scripture quotations are from the Message paraphrase. Image source.

Continue Reading · advent, christmas, faith, peace · 7

Hope :: For the First Sunday of Advent


Isaiah 60:1-5

Get out of bed, Jerusalem! Wake up. Put your face in the sunlight. God’s bright glory has risen for you. The whole earth is wrapped in darkness, all people sunk in deep darkness. But God rises on you, his sunrise glory breaks over you. Nations will come to your light, kings to your sunburst brightness. Look up! Look around! Watch as they gather, watch as they approach you: Your sons coming from great distances, your daughters carried by their nannies. When you see them coming you’ll smile – big smiles! Your heart will swell and, yes, burst! All those people returning by sea for the reunion, a rich harvest of exiles gathered in from the nations!

Isaiah 9:2

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those who lived in a land of deep shadows – light! sunbursts of light.

Already, we are living in the days of the winter darkness. We wake up to starlight, the moon hangs overhead well into the day, and we pick up our children from school by the sunset, we eat by candlelight or lamplight every night. We curl up in blankets and we serve piping hot comfort food to each other. The days are often grey here, too, on the Pacific south coast. This was new to me ten years ago when we first moved to this area. A prairie kid by birthright, November days were a diamond blue light of sunshine, bright and hard, reflected off the first piles of snow, refracting and dazzling. We filled our souls up with that light before the sun began to set in the short turn of the days, yes it’s dark now but tomorrow it will be bright again.

Instead now I’m caught between the ocean and the mountains, so the days are grey and the clouds are often low. It’s not unusual to have the lamps on for the entire day, moving from a black night to a dark and grey drizzle of a day and back into darkness, always cold, always damp.

We’ve grown used to it, many of us even love it. We have acclimated to the darkness, redeemed it with books and candlelight and coziness and pots of soup. We move through the day with our shoulders hunched against the rain, our hoods up to protect our hair and our ears until it feels like we are moving underwater, the sounds of the street muffled and a wash of water at our feet.

We think we’re fine, we think it’s good, we think weather doesn’t matter that much to us, and we are used to it, after all there are parts of it that we love! we find each other in the darkness and we redeem it, baptize it with our imaginations, absolutely, but then…. Oh, then comes the day when the sun rises in the sharp brittle light of near winter mornings when there are no clouds in the sky.

Oh, on that day.

Light! Light!

Oh, look at that sunshine!

On that day, we fling open our blinds and we wash the windows from the inside, we sweep our floors because the light has shown us the dust of our comfort. We bundle up in our woolies and we stride out into the sunshine, grins on our faces. We go to the park and we walk with our hoods down no matter how cold it is. It’s always a bit colder without the clouds, sometimes the wind will take our breath but we stand out in it anyway. “How about that sunshine?” we crow to one another at the grocery store and the school pick up line and the office. “Oh, what a lovely day!” We call each other to meet at the playground or the walking trails. “You’ve got to get outside today,” we say coaxingly to the ones who hate the cold.

We are wide awake after the grey comfortable slumbers, we can see our breath and we can see the light, and we feel alive, alive, alive again. The light has swept away our torpor and our dull coziness, bracing us awake.

And then when the spring comes and the days grow longer and the clouds light altogether….well.

Then, in those days, we fling the windows wide open even though it’s still a bit too cold outside and the wind sweeps into our homes, the cold swirling into the corners. A few short months ago, this very temperature sent us running for our mittens and heavy coats, now after months of deeper cold, that number on the thermometer feels like a balmy day, worthy of t-shirts.

We feel a compulsion to clean and to sweep and to make our spaces sparkle like the light. We prepare our homes for the arrival of the light and the warmth like fancy people prepare their homes for big parties. Doesn’t someone have a bottle of champagne somewhere? We are all unbuttoning and unwinding and unfurling and then we are tipping our faces up to the light with our eyes closed against the brilliance, still seeing the light through our lids, feeling the promise of warmth and growth and life again.

So there is a metaphor for you.

This Sunday, light a candle named Hope at your table with your people because it is still dark outside.

But it won’t be night or dark grey days forever and right now, there are glimpses of the Kingdom still breaking through.

There is light enough by which to live: speak hope.

John 1:1-5

The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one. Everything was created through him; nothing – not one thing! – came into being without him. What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.


This is the first part of a series of Advent Sunday night candle meditations. This coming Sunday, Christians all around the world – in churches and in homes and in refugee camps and on the streets – will light the first candle, the Hope candle, to open Advent, the traditional season of preparation for the coming of the Christ-child as well as the reminder that Christ is coming again.

The Full Advent Series

Courage! Take heart! God is here, right here! :: Why Advent Matters

First Sunday: Hope

Second Sunday: Peace

Third Sunday: Joy

Fourth Sunday: Love

Christmas Eve: The Christ Candle

All Scripture quotations are from the Message paraphrase. Image source.


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