I love Advent. I love that every year the Christian lectionary calendar celebrates the coming of Christ for four weeks before Christmas. We celebrate the coming of Christ through his birth into the world, we celebrate the coming of Christ into believer’s lives throughout history, and we celebrate that Christ will return one day in divine glory. Traditional Advent liturgies involve the weekly lighting of candles on an Advent wreath. The four candles around the wreath represent hope, peace, joy and love. The candle in the center is the Christ candle, representing Jesus, the Light of the world.
Isn’t it fascinating that we light these inspirational candles as winter approaches, when daylight gives way to night? As days get shorter, the candles remind us that Jesus is the source of our hope, peace, joy and love. Christmas comes soon after the winter solstice on December 21, the shortest day of the year. On Christmas we light the Christ candle, acknowledging that the Light of the world has pushed back the darkness.
Have you ever noticed how people are inspired when they see someone say or do the right thing? People are encouraged by others’ examples to do good, or at least to try to do better. This came home to me when I was standing on a crowded subway train one morning, next to a very pregnant woman who was struggling. She was very pail, holding unsteadily onto the seat rail with her head down. There were several people sitting reading newspapers or staring out the windows, none paying attention to her. I was afraid she might faint and said, “Won’t somebody give this woman a seat? Can’t you see she’s sick?” A couple of the men looked up and immediately stood up. Then, to my surprise, a young person got up and offered me a seat, too. They just needed a little encouragement to pay attention to others around them. They were willing to do the right thing, they just needed a spark, a little light to help them to see the right thing to do–the better way to behave.
In Matthew 5:14 Jesus tells his followers: “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.” The Light of the world came to teach and to show us the right things to do. Then he told us we are to be shining lights, leading the world to a better way.
Advent reminds us that our job–all year long–is to shine our lights. Lights don’t shine unless they’re brighter than the darkness around them. We’re not to follow the world, we are to lead it to a better way. Let’s make sure that we do things, often small things, that shine hope, peace, joy and love to others. Let’s shine by giving a pregnant woman or an old man a seat when we can, by smiling more often, by helping someone carry a heavy load. Let’s shine by offering a ride to somebody who needs it, even if it means going out of our way. Let’s speak peace and hope when everyone else is arguing. Let’s shine by standing up for justice when needed, and let’s not be afraid to speak truth to power no matter the consequences. Instead of just fussing about the rampant materialism that retailers have made into Christmas tradition, let’s show the world a better way by giving more money on “giving Tuesday” than we spend on “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday.”
To spark the world into becoming a better place, let’s just be the best “goody two-shoes” we can be! That’s how we confuse the darkness. I’ll share more about this next time, as I continue to discuss what it means to be followers of the Light. I do appreciate your comments.