An article for our church magazine all about the reflective waiting that goes on during Advent and my own personal reflection on the upcoming festivities in the light of my dad’s diagnosis.
If you ask most children what December is all about they will say Christmas. There are myriad adverts on TV, decorations and lights in every shop and city centre, and schools begin their Christmas activities almost as soon as December appears, giving the impression that the whole month is all about Christmas. However, most of December is actually spent waiting and preparing for Christmas to come, which for a young child can seem endless. Add to that, the worry that they haven’t quite reached Santa’s expected standards of behaviour for the year, and December can seem like quite an agonising month of waiting amidst the excitement and soul-searching.
This is also true for Christians – the season of Advent (the four weeks building up to Christmas) is all about waiting and preparing oneself for the arrival of the Messiah – on the one hand, it is a commemoration of the Messiah coming in the form of a newborn baby whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, while on the other it is the anticipation of the time when He will come again in glory to herald God’s Kingdom on Earth.
While it is difficult to keep in mind in the midst of holiday celebrations, shopping, lights and decorations, and joyful carols, Advent, much like Lent, is intended to be a season of reflection, both personal and for the wider world. I have begun my reflection early this year as I struggle to come to terms with my Dad’s diagnosis of terminal cancer. I will be honest; I have not been anticipating Christmas so much as dreading it, but then I found a poem that has inspired me and put me back on track, if only for a short while. It is called Four Candles by Aino Makoto, which resonates with the season of Advent, calling to mind the four candles which are lit at this time of year, one for each week of the Advent season. So maybe, if like me, you are struggling with something in your own life and Christmas seems daunting or if you are saddened by the state of the world we live in and are finding hard to look forward with anticipation because God’s kingdom seems so far away, then maybe the words of this poem will bring you some comfort as they have for me:
The Four Candles by Aino Makoto
The Four Candles burned slowly.
Their Ambiance was so soft you could hear them speak…
The First Candle said, “I Am Peace, but these days, nobody wants to keep me lit.”
Then Peace’s flame slowly diminishes and goes out completely.
The Second Candle said, “I Am Faith, but these days, I am no longer indispensable.”
Then, Faith’s flame slowly diminishes and goes out completely.
Sadly The Third Candle Speaks, “I Am Love and I haven’t the strength to stay lit any longer.
People put me aside and don’t understand my importance.
They even forget to love those who are nearest to them.”
Waiting no longer, Love goes out completely.
Suddenly…A child enters the room and sees the three candles no longer burning.
The child begins to cry, “Why are you not burning? You are supposed to stay lit until the end!”
Then The Fourth Candle speaks gently to the little child,
“Don’t be afraid, for I Am Hope, and while I still burn, we can re-light the other candles.”
With Shining Eyes, the child took the Candle Of Hope and lit the other three candles.
Never let the Flame Of Hope go out of your life.
With Hope, no matter how bad things look and are…Peace, Faith and Love can shine brightly in our lives.