At the church office we receive a lot of mail and emails with all sorts of things to send out to the congregation. Any number of these things might be really great, but we have to choose carefully what to share so as not to overwhelm you all with information and possibilities. One of the things we decided not to publish, but would like to share, is the Advent devotional from Presbyterians Today. While we are a few days late on sharing it, you can easily catch up if you are interested. Below I have copied the first day of the devotional, which I really appreciated. If you are interested in continuing to use the devotional you can find it here.
Day 1 | First Sunday of Advent, Nov. 28
The four-candle room charge
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” — Jeremiah 33:14–16 I began settling into what would be my home for the next three days — a clapboard-sided and wood-shingled roof structure from the 1700s that once served as a tavern for hungry and tired travelers. After putting my quilt on top of the straw mattress in one of the tiny bedrooms on the second floor, I took from my bag four candles. The candles were my payment for choosing to sleep in the tavern rather than a nearby motel during the open-hearth cooking class I signed up for.
Down the narrow stairs and into the kitchen I went. A fire was already blazing in the massive hearth. The cooking instructor was kneeling in front of a skillet that was placed over hot coals. I peeked over his shoulder and noticed golden biscuits that made my mouth water. “Biscuits made in a skillet?” I asked. “I had no idea you could do that.” He chuckled and looked up. Noticing the candles in my hand, he nodded to a wooden box in the corner. “You can put them there,” he said. I made my way to the box and opened the lid. Inside were hundreds of candles: some with wicks untouched and some burned down to an inch. I placed my candles as if placing money in an offering plate — with reverence and a sense that they would now be part of something bigger.
I sat by the fire, took a biscuit and asked about the curious four-candle room charge. Legend has it that a woman found her retreat into a world without modern-day conveniences so healing that she wanted to thank the founder of this living-history campus. What could she give to show what her stay meant to her? That’s when she thought of four candles. She sent the candles with a note that explained they represented the ones she would light during Advent: hope, peace, joy and love.
“She experienced the real meaning of Advent here in this old tavern,” the instructor said, not taking his eyes off the second batch of biscuits that he had begun. “Watching the fire to make sure it never went out, waiting for bread to be done, lighting candles to chase away the darkness and gathering with others around the hearth. She said it was Advent being lived out.”
I turned to the box of candles. Have I really “lived” Advent? I broke my biscuit like it was some holy communion wafer and ate silently, pondering.
Truly the days are coming when God’s promises will be fulfilled. Till then, we live Advent: lighting candles of hope, speaking words of peace, sharing the bread of joy and feasting on the abundance of love we will find in that lowly manger bed.
God of Advent waiting, we empty ourselves of all that keeps us from experiencing the hope, the peace, the joy and love you have for us. We offer you our complete attention. And so, come Emmanuel, come and help us to live in the Advent moment. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Challenge yourself to create a space where there is no humming of electricity, dinging of social media notifications or the glow of computer screens. Dare to say no to Zoom meetings or decline signing up for another webinar. Find the divine quiet that can heal. Light the first candle of Advent — the candle of hope — and take some bread, break it, hold it in your hands and think of ways you can offer hope to this crazy, noisy world.