Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
"Daddy, why don't we light them all?"
These were the words that came from the lips of my three-year-old as we began our devotions one evening last week after dinner. Still the first week of Advent at the time, we were only lighting one of the four candles on our family Advent wreath. The question makes perfect sense. Why don't we light them all?
Because Advent is a time for preparation and expectation. And even more, as the family sits down during Advent for devotions, lighting an Advent Wreath, marking off another day on the Advent Calendar, turning another page in the Advent Devotional Booklet, or whatever routines a family may have, they are able to tell the story of expectation--Again and again.
Deuteronomy 6 is a text not often thought of during this season of Advent, but I think it fits well:
4 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. 10 "And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you- with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant- and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (Deuteronomy 6:4-12)
I don't know about you, but I remember Advent well because my parents had well-established routines of remembrance that we went through each night of the season. It makes sense that the preparation that takes place during Advent is well-remembered, for we have four weeks full of repetition--and repetition is the mother of all learning. So too, it makes sense that these holy habits acquired during this holy season, are good habits to continue throughout the church year.
Many of us remember the mysterious wonder of Advent from our childhoods, and we want the same for our own children. Looking forward to the celebration of the Christ Child's birth; knowing that something special was coming; knowing, that not all the candles could be lit tonight, but that as we went forward, the anticipation would built, and so would the light--and so would the memories.
Memories of a child born to save us. Memories of family gathered around a baby and singing his praises. Memories of preparation and expectation.
As you sit down with your family for your Advent devotion, remember that you are handing down something that will not soon be forgotten--not some meaningless ritual, but a devotion of the highest kind, a devotion to the Christ Child, who came, who continues to come, and who has promised to come again.
May your season of Advent be a blessed one! Amen.