Recovering from the hiccup of forgetting to light the second week’s candles until Wednesday, we got back on track for the Third Sunday of Advent. Following the decorating of the tree, and preceding our viewing of what I called “a traditional Christmas movie of robotic violence” (I, Robot), we lit the third candle. Well, we were about to, when our son erupted in a huge sneeze that smelled vile and soaked a couple members of the family. Such is the chaos that accompanies our family rituals.
“What do three people make?”
Once we recover from The Sneeze, my wife lights the first candle. “What’s the first candle?”
“The light of the world,” the kids answer.
She lights the second candle. “What’s the second candle?” she asks.
“The bridge,” the kids say in chorus.
Then she lights the third candle and asks, “And what’s the third candle?”
“The Trinity,” they answer.
“Why three?” I ask. “What’s so special about three?”
“Three forms a self-supporting structure, where each part is strengthened by the other two,” our son replies.
“Very good!” I say, trying not to fall over from the shock of hearing such a thoughtful response from him.
“What else is special about three?” I ask. “Three, it’s a magic number,” I sing, quoting Schoolhouse Rock.
“Three forms a triangle,” our youngest says.
“What do you get from just two?” I ask.
“Connect two dots with a line, that’s the first dimension,” she answers, referring to our exploration of spiritual geometry. (That was nearly a year ago!)
But I’m trying to remind them of my special meaning for the three candles. “Two people make a couple,” I say. “What do three people make?”
“A crowd?” our son says, and we chuckle.
“What do three people make,” I press.
“Right. And what do families do?” I ask.
The answers pour in. “They love each other.” “They support each other.”
I open the Bible and turn to the first chapter of Genesis. “Let’s see what the First Family does,” I say, and read the first part of verse 26. “Then God said, ‘Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness.'” (I use the TNIV specifically for its gender-neutral rendering of this verse.) “The First Family makes another family.”
“So our family, and all families, are made in God’s image!” my wife says.
“So what do families do?” I say, pressing in.
“They make more families,” our middle child answers.
“That makes sense,” our youngest child ponders. “Our family will create other families.”
“But we don’t just create lots of little families,” I say, turning to John 17. “Let’s look at what Jesus prays for us: ‘I pray that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that’—what?—’the world may believe that you have sent me.'”
“Who is Jesus saying this to?” our middle child asks.
“He’s saying it to the Father, about us,” I answer.
“I don’t get it,” our youngest injerjects. “Is Jesus praying to himself?”
“No,” I reply, “he’s praying to the Father. …It can be confusing. But listen to his confusing language: ‘You are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us.'” I wave my hands drawing a network of lines over the candles. “It’s like God is all interconnected, and is actually growing his family, so we get to be part of all that interconnected stuff.”
Advent Candle Meaning series: