December days are short, hemmed in darkness. Grateful for a new liturgical year with its wisdom of waiting and preparation, we place new candles in the old Advent wreath. We light the first candle. Just the first. In silence, preparing to read the first scripture of the season, an old proverb rises in the heart: It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.
One violet candle during the first week of the darkest month. One candle of violet, not gold or red or white. One candle of penance and preparation. One silent signal of hope. It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.
It is better to light one silent candle than curse the noise of jingle bells. It is better to light one lone flame than curse a world dazzling in twinkling strands. It is better to fast before the feast but better as well to acknowledge that instant, constant celebrations speak of all human desire: for joy, peace and community. It is better to light one candle for early revelers than to curse the darkness of consumerism. It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.
It is better to light one candle for peace than to curse the darkness of a world battling for power, pitting neighbor against neighbor. It is better to light one candle in a season of political division than to curse a neighbor concerned with different problems and different solutions than mine. It is better to light one candle of conversation than to curse the contention clamoring for attention. It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.
It is better to light one candle than to curse the cold. It is better to light one candle than to curse the pain. Better to give one can of food than to curse the uncaring crowd.
It is better to light one candle of faith than to curse the doubt in my own aching heart. It is better to light one candle of hope than to curse the despair drowning the goodwill I want to to give and to receive. It is better to light one candle of love than to curse my enemy.
It is better to light one candle beside an empty manger. Better to ponder the promise that Christ goes to prepare a place for us, and if He goes, He will come again. It is better to light one candle and prepare a place for Him. Better to light one candle in faith that “One born on high will visit us.” It is better to light one candle in union with His purpose: “to give light to those who walk in darkness…to lead our feet in the path of peace.”
It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.
Reads and Other Seeds:
I’ve just begun Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s Mystery of the Magi: The Quest to Identify the Three Wise Men. Looking forward to the results of his attempt to separate fact from legend. Longenecker shares the story behind his research in this video, (shared earlier on Sparrowfare’s Facebook page) which piqued my interest in the book.
If you are like me in wanting to know the evidence behind the revelation, another great Advent read is Scott Hahn’s Joy to the World: How Christ’s Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does). This book is very accessible yet drops fascinating tidbits of scholarship including the early Christians’ reverence for the place of Christ’s birth, textual evidence for the Virgin Birth and astronomical evidence for the Star of Bethlehem.
Still looking for daily Advent reflections? My favorites are from “The Bishop Who Refuses to Dumb Down the Faith,” Bishop Robert Barron. Receive the reflections by email here. His podcast “Why Is There a Christmas Season?” is an inspiring Advent listen!
I’ve been on an Andrew Peterson binge since posting “In the Night: A Song for Your Playlist of Hope” and preparing my own playlist of hope to share with you. So, during the first part of Advent, in which we ponder Christ’s second coming, we share the “how long” of the faithful Hebrews who longed for His first appearing. So along with “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” I play and replay “The Reckoning” and let my heart wail, “How long?”
This post is an update that first appeared at Sparrowfare on December 2, 2016. The light still shines in the darkness.
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