As we begin Advent, we light one candle in the midst of all the darkness in our lives and in the world. It symbolizes our longing, our desire, our hope. Three “advents” or “comings” shape our desire. We want to be renewed in a sense that Jesus came to save us from our sin and death. We want to experience his coming to us now, in our everyday lives, to help us live our lives with meaning and purpose. And we want to prepare for his coming to meet us at the end of our lives on this earth.
So, we begin with our longing, our desire and our hope.
When we wake up, each day this week, we could light that candle, just by taking a few moments to focus. We could pause for a minute at the side of our bed, or while putting on our slippers or our robe, and light an inner candle. Who among us doesn't have time to pause for a moment? We could each find our own way to pray something like this:
“Lord, the light I choose to let into my life today is based on my trust in you. It is a weak flame, but I so much desire that it dispel a bit more darkness today. Today, I just want to taste the longing I have for you as I go to the meeting this morning, carry out the responsibilities of my work, face the frustration of some difficult relationships. Let this candle be my reminder today of my hope in your coming.”
Each morning this week, that momentary prayer might get more specific, as it prepares us for the day we will face. And as we head to work, walk to a meeting, rush through lunch, take care of errands, meet with people, pick up the phone to return some calls, answer e-mail, return home to prepare a meal, listen to the ups and downs of our loved ones' day, we can take brief moments to relate our desire for the three comings of the Lord to our life.
If our family has an Advent wreath, or even if it doesn't, we could pray together before our evening meal. As we light the first candle on the wreath, or as we simply pause to pray together our normal grace. Then, as we begin to eat, we can invite each other, including the children, to say something about what it means today to light this first candle.
Perhaps we could ask a different question each night, or ask about examples from the day. How am I getting in touch with the longing within me? How did I prepare today? What does it mean to prepare to celebrate his coming 2,000 years ago? How can we prepare to experience his coming into our lives this year? What does it mean for us now, with our world involved in so much conflict? How are we being invited to trust more deeply? How much more do we long for his coming to us, in the midst of the darkness in our world? In what ways can we renew our lives so we might be prepared to greet him when he comes again? Our evening meal could be transformed this week, if we could shape some kind of conversation together that lights a candle of anticipation in our lives. Don't worry if everyone isn't “good at” this kind of conversation at first. We can model it, based on our momentary pauses throughout each day, in which we are discovering deeper and deeper desires, in the midst of our everyday lives.
And every night this week, we can pause briefly, perhaps as we sit for a minute at the edge of the bed. We can be aware of how that one, small candle's worth of desire brought light into this day. And we can give thanks. Going to bed each night this week with some gratitude is part of the preparation for growing anticipation and desire.