“They had no idea of what manner of men they were. One of them once, seeing himself in a mirror that passed on a van of household goods, had cried out – There is an ugly fellow!”
(Pearl Buck, The Good Earth)
Yesterday, Sunday, was a busy day in our home. It was the first day of Advent. I had been so looking forward to starting a new tradition with my family. I studied the background of Advent, the meaning of the wreath, the candles the history and context. I read devotionals so I would be prepared. I bought some materials weeks ago, and my wife and I created an advent wreath from scratch. We were indeed impressed with ourselves.
Then the day arrived and with it, the sudden realization that it was also the day of gifts being dropped for The Angel Tree Program that I had volunteered us for. So we checked them in and piled the bags into our car and took them home. We ended up spending the entire day organizing and verifying them. Oh, and we had to get the usual Sunday things done in preparation of our week as well. By the end of the afternoon we were all spent and quite exhausted. Tempers were boiling, faces contorted , eyes were rolled.
Did I mention we also chose this day to decorate the tree? Our college age son suddenly realized he had to cram for exams and rushed out the door to the library on campus at 2pm, never to be heard from again. The weight of the day’s works fell on My wife my eleven-year-old daughter and I. My wife, who had planned a nice meal and suddenly realized it was already 6:30 P.M. I told her something had to give… We ordered out. She agreed. So while she and our daughter made cookies and empanadas, I placed the food order and drove to pick it up. Admittedly, I received the better end of this bargain.
I placed our P.F. Chang’s on the table, and we sat starving and impatient. Eager to eat. We impulsively started to dive in…
I reminded my wife and daughter tonight was the first day of Advent that each of us had been looking forward to so much, “Hurry, we are hungry.” We each had become impatient and held left little room for reflection, but we would push through…
I explained Advent the best I knew of. The meaning of the wreath – the eternity of God. The candles – Hope, Love, Joy and Piece. The third Pink candle is the expression of Joy. The center candle placed and lit on Christmas to remind that Jesus is the light of the world…
I lit the first candle, representing Hope, and read from “In Joyful Hope” by Henri J. M. Nouwen …the first words were about waiting. Patiently waiting. We each suddenly stopped and smiled. We laughed lightly, sat up straight with renewed attention. We had been given a mirror, and we each saw our refection’s in that mirror. Our entire perspective changed at that moment.
The rest of the evening was full of more joyful hearts as we decorated the tree. We enjoyed hot chocolate that I made, freshly made scratch cookies Gianna had made and the cheese empanadas, sprinkled with powdered sugar, my wife had prepared, yes from scratch. We sang songs and kidded each other as we placed each item on the tree recalling the significance of each. Many have sentimental or fun meanings. Some were gifts from special friends or cherished family.
The first day of our new Advent tradition had transformed what was heading toward a plodding day of stress and rush. It instead delivered reflection. About ourselves, our faith and the image of patience and waiting with the hope the season is focused on. Our Home was a more peaceful place as a result. And as we lit the tree, we were reminded that in the darkest times we have light and that light shines for us.
“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.” – Isaiah 9:2 NASB
…and for that I am thankful. Amen.