“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” – James Keller
It’s crazy to think it’s December and that 2018 will soon draw to a close. December brings so many wonderful holiday traditions. Each is celebrated by cultures, families, and communities around the world of differing faiths and backgrounds. This year, I found myself intrigued by the tradition of the Advent wreath.
While I have never kept or an Advent wreath, this tradition in particular caught my attention, in large part, because of the candles on each wreath. I know, candles are part of many holiday festivities and traditions. But it was the meaning behind these candles as I looked into the tradition that drew me in. Four candles, each one lit on a Sunday during Advent (the Christmas season). While many resources went back and forth on the exact color the candles should be, the meaning behind them was the same.
The first of the candles lit is to remind those observing Advent of the immense importance of hope. Regardless of your beliefs, I think we can all agree that hope is such an important aspect of the human experience. It’s something we cling to in situations of despair and give to others as a warmth in troubling times. As we look at the world around us and the continual barrage of pain, loneliness, and suffering, hope is the light so many hold dear that there is possibility of better things to come.
The second candle represents the importance of faith. I like to think of this as the faith we can share in our fellow citizens. Faith that we can all hold on to, that we can all believe in each other. In our ability to do more together than we could ever do alone. Faith that despite the look of dismay and discord, we can come together and stand on our commonalities. Recognizing that what makes us different also makes us strong. That we can have faith in each other that, even though our lives and our stories may be different, we’re all still people dreaming and working toward something more.
The third candle on the wreath represents joy. This one may seem easy. With the holidays upon us, joy is part of the recipe that makes it merry and bright. But joy is harder to come by when the lights and tree come down, when loved ones go off back to their homes and the shiny veneer that holidays can cast on the world is gone. This is when we need to hold on to joy. To find the joy and excitement in little things and ordinary days. That we remind ourselves that it doesn’t have to be the holidays all year round for us to find joy in the world around us.
Last, but certainly not least, the fourth candle represents peace. We have songs devoted to it and it’s often called for most when it seems our side may be losing ground. When I think of peace I’m often reminded of the Christmas Truce of 1914. If you have never heard of it please take a look at this. Yes I know it’s an ad, but stay with me. In the midst of the first World War, two bitter rivals stepped out on Christmas day to have peace. To see each other as people not enemies, as fellow soldiers far from families and homes on Christmas. I know peace is bigger than this one idea, but what better example of putting down our metaphorical weapons than people who actually put down their weapons. Yes, this moment didn’t stop the continuation of the war (or any subsequent ones). It didn’t even occur across the entire battle front, but this moment of peace is a lasting reminder of what we can accomplish, if we want to. If we decide to, if we try. Isn’t that what peace is, a decision we make to try and reach across to others?
So, I challenge you, as I’m challenging myself, to hold on to hope, have faith, find joy, and reach for peace not just at this holiday season, but all year round. Just think what this time next year would look like if we did.