Missional Advent Candles Meaning: Week Four

December 20, 2009



Advent candles, week 4

Photo by SkyD (license)

This is Part Four of a series on our family’s Advent candles ritual. See Parts One, Two and Three.

Something I have tried to convey in my descriptions of our “rituals” is the loose, chaotic nature of our family’s spiritual practices. It’s not for everybody, and sometimes I could do with a little less chaos. But my wife and I try to keep things centered on Christ without creating overly religious patterns that would annoy our kids. We try to instill faith, while at the same time knowing that we cannot. The goal my wife and I hold is that, with the ups and downs of life (including the ups and downs of relationship with any particular church), our kids will not walk away from God, and will always know the way back. As Kay says, “I want them to know that God is not the enemy.”

So even as I describe how things unfolded tonight, I want you to know: It’s more chaotic than it sounds. There are interruptions I don’t bother to note, and people talking simultaneously, going down rabbit trails. We may remark on a particular digression to acknowledge it and share a laugh, and then say, “OK, enough!”

Four candles: The four corners.
Suggested scriptures: Genesis 12:1-3, Acts 1:6-8

“But I don’t like that, the earth isn’t square,” our youngest complains.
“Tough,” I say.

“Let’s not forget to light the candles,” our youngest says. “Can I do it?”
I hand her the lighter. “Come on, everyone,” I call. “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation was a pretty bad movie. Let’s see if we can’t redeem the evening somehow.”
“What order do I light them in?” our youngest asks. “This one, then this. Which is the third?”
“Pick one, it doesn’t matter,” I reply.

She lights the first candle. “What’s the first candle?” my wife asks.
“The light of the world,” the kids chime in chorus.
“And the second?”
“The bridge,” the kids say.
“The bridge between God and people,” my wife adds. “And the third?”
“The Trinity,” the kids answer.
“God is a family,” I add.

“And what about the fourth candle?” my wife asks.
“The four corners of the world,” our middle child says.
“Meaning…” I prompt.
“God sends us to the four corners of the world with his Message,” our middle child answers.
“But I don’t like that, the earth isn’t square,” our youngest complains.
“Tough,” I say.

“Can anyone come up with any Scriptures?” I ask.
Silence. “Uh, Jesus said, you are fishers of men?” our middle child ventures.
“You’re just making up an answer, like you do on tests,” I say. “How about Genesis 12?”
“Genesis?” the kids ponder. “Let’s see, that’s after Noah…”
“Genesis 12,” my wife says as she looks it up on her iPhone app. “Oh, it’s the call to Abram.”
“You mean Abraham,” our oldest says, trying to establish his teenage dominance.
“No, this is before his name was changed,” my wife says.
“Would you read it?” I ask.

So she reads it from her iPhone, concluding with, “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
“So there it is, the promise of God, all the way back in Genesis,” I say. (I purposely did not go all the way back to Genesis chapter 1 just for time’s sake.)
“But kids, it doesn’t say to evangelize the world,” my wife adds, surprising me. “It says to bless the world. Not go out and thump bibles on people’s heads, like that guy holding the sign we saw earlier today.”
“Yeah, that doesn’t exactly work,” our middle one comment.
Meanwhile the youngest is playing with the lighter.
“Enough with the lighter!” my wife scolds.
“Sorry.”

“Now let’s skip ahead to Acts 1,” I say. “This is Jesus. He’s done with the dying and coming back to life bit.”
“So this is after he ascends?” the youngest asks.
“No, right before,” I explain. “Everyone has gathered around Jesus, and they have a question.”
I read the passage.
“So there, Jesus sends them, and us, to the four corners of the earth,” I say. “But what do they need to be successful? The answer is right there, hint, hint.”
“You will receive power,” our middle one quotes.
“The power of…” I prompt.
“The Holy Spirit,” our oldest answers.
“Absolutely essential,” I say. “You just can’t do it otherwise; it’s a waste of time to try.”

“Daddy, do you want to pray for us?” my wife says.
“Lord, send us,” I pray.

Have you found this series to be helpful? I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, reactions. Merry Christmas, and as I tell my children, Advent is not just looking back to Jesus’s first coming, but looking forward to his second coming. Let your kingdom come!

Advent Candle Meaning series:

    1. Week One: The Light of the World
    2. Week Two: The Bridge
    3. Week Three: The Family of God
    4. Week Four: The Four Corners



Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

5 responses to Missional Advent Candles Meaning: Week Four

  1. I love hearing about your family’s “ritual”, it’s so cool how you guys are making the gospel accessible to the kids, and having fun with it too. Not being too stiff.
    We have never done Advent, I guess because neither of us grew up in a Christian family, and I don’t really know much about it. This has inspired me to look into it more for next year, and also that it doesn’t have to include a ton of effort or preparation.

  2. I agree w/ Sami. I like hearing about the Gospel being shared amid the chaos of everyday family life.
    The Garcias are celebrating Advent this year for the 1st time. Except we’re doing all the stuff during Christmas week. Mostly because I didn’t get my act together until December 10th or so. My 8 and 5 year old seem to be into it so far. Thanks for the insights!

  3. BTW… how long are you supposed to let the candles burn?

  4. Sami,
    There is much to be learned from the traditional church calendar. The cyclical nature of it is a reminder that the story continues and we are part of it. But it can be a challenge to remember, or to have any sense of what to do, when you belong to a church that pays no attention to the calendar. But remember, ultimately, the steps you take in family spirituality are your responsibility, not the church’s.
    Oh, I should add that I speak of “the traditional church calendar” as if there was only one. But the Eastern church (Orthodox) and the Western church (Catholic, and Protestant from them) use different dates. So Lent will begin on February 17th, according to the Western calendar.

  5. Joe, way to go on celebrating Advent as a family!
    As far as the candles go — hey, I’m making all this stuff up as I go, according to how the children are responding. We blow them out right away, which seems too quick for me. I think it would be nicer to stay around the lit candles and sing a song. But I don’t think my kids would put up with that. 🙂