Missional Advent Candles Meaning: Week One

November 30, 2009

Advent candle, week 1

Photo by SkyD (license)

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

Years ago, I decided to introduce the rhythms of Advent to our family by making candle-lighting a family ritual. But when I looked up the Advent candle meanings, I was not satisfied with what I found. Since there are multiple meanings anyway, I decided to create my own ritual, but with a missional bent. When I say “ritual,” you probably picture something formal and solemn. So I offer, for whatever it’s worth, a glimpse into our chaos.

One candle: The light of the world.
Suggested scriptures: John 8:12, Matthew 5:13-16

“So ‘This little light of mine is a lie!'”

“Who wants to light the first candle?” I ask.
“I will!” our middle child volunteers eagerly.
“Wait!” my wife interrupts. “First turn off all the lights.”
“Why?” the youngest asks.
“We want it dark, it’s part of lighting the candles,” my wife says.

With everything dark, I say, “All right, go ahead. Now how about if the youngest explains what it means.”
“I don’t remember! It’s been a year and I can never remember,” the youngest complains.
“What? Come on,” the oldest says, “we do this every year.”
“I can only remember the bridge-thing,” the youngest replies.
“That’s two candles,” the oldest says.
“Then you explain the first candle,” I say.

“It’s like, the light of the world. Jesus said we’re the light of the world, or something.”
“Right. Who else did Jesus say is the light of the world?”
“Jesus is!” the middle one says.
“So Jesus says he is the light of the world? And he says that we are the light of the world?” I ask.
“Right,” the kids reply.
“It’s like that song,” the oldest says, withdrawing his face into the depths of his hoodie and dancing like limbless scarecrow.
“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,” my wife sings. But we are staring at the odd hooded figure. “Wait,” she says, picks up a pen, and inserts it into the black hole enclosed by the hoodie. “There!” The pen stays for a moment.
“Pleh!” The pen is spat out. Everyone cheers, “Rejected!”

I continue through the chaos, “So Jesus is the light of the world, but we are the light of the world. Paradox! Explain this riddle to me.”
“Uh, we’re to go into the world shining our light?” one of the kids says.
“Yes, but what is that light?” I press.
There is a pause.
“We are like mirrors,” my wife offers, “reflecting God’s light.”
“That’s pretty good,” I said. “Today I read that people talk about imitating Christ, but really, that’s not our job. Our job is to bring Christ wherever we go. Somehow, Jesus is actually there.”
“So ‘This little light of mine‘ is a lie!” my wife concludes with a laugh.

I closed with a simple prayer. Then everyone grabbed pizza and we sat down to watch our Sunday night movie together.

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.

6 responses to Missional Advent Candles Meaning: Week One

  1. I really like it!
    The pen/hoodie thing is hilarious, too. Is there a story behind that?

  2. Samia, that’s just Trevor, doing what Trevors do. 🙂
    I included that to show how, instead of demanding that our children “be serious” and “pay attention,” we roll with them. And laugh.

  3. Perfect! I am inspired.

  4. Jon, thanks for posting this. I am trying to be down with Advent traditions, but I feel like I’m always playing catch up. Probably cause I am…
    Anyway, I completely appreciate the reality of trying to bring order to any given family function and letting God move in the chaos that follows. Good stuff.

  5. BTW… one of my favorite quotes ever is from the lead singer of the Blind Boys of Alabama. At the opening of the concert at House of Blues he says
    “I didn’t come here looking for Jesus. I brought Him along with me.”

  6. Joe, It’s not too late to jump in. Because I usually don’t remember Advent until the month changes to December, we have often lit the first candle on the second Sunday in Advent, and then fudged things to light the fourth candle on Christmas Eve.
    Love the quote. The Blind Boys opened for Peter Gabriel when we saw PG. There they were, these old guys — getting an entire stadium on their feet in whoopin’ worship.