Lessons Learned from a Brightly Burning 5th Candle….

Due to the painful events of November 2015, emotional darkness descended upon me and remained with me for the first months of 2016. But it was not just my personal life that seemed dark and unsettling this past year.

Nationally, there was great anger expressed during the political process—by our candidates and their supporters. There were shootings that spawned turmoil between residents and police; terrorist bombings in our country and other countries; and last but not least, there were heart-breaking stories and videos from Aleppo.

To make it even more pronounced, we could watch and read about this chaos on our smart phones at any time and in any place. The negative news was 24/7 and unrelenting.

And then, here comes December—the final month in this turbulent year. It is also the month we celebrate Christmas. The irony of this played out in my mind—Jesus is supposed to be the light of the world and yet darkness seemed to be the mode of operation for much of 2016.

I found myself thinking that His light was very dim—instead of joyous light and glow, the fire burned as brightly as a small candle from the Dollar General store.

But, over the holidays, my thoughts changed.

You see, for the first time in a very long time, I had an Advent wreath in my home. For those unfamiliar the tradition, the Advent wreath symbolizes the passage of the four-week period prior to Christmas. These four weeks are called the season of Advent… a time to reflect on the meaning of the birth of Jesus.

The wreath is typically a circular candle holder that holds five candles. During the season of Advent one candle on the wreath is lit each Sunday until all of the candles, including the fifth candle, are lit on Christmas Day. The 5th candle is larger in size and is white (the others are purple or pink) so it is noticeably different from the other candles. It is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day in honor of the birth of Jesus. In the past, it was our family tradition to light the candle(s) at night during our dinner meals.

But as noted, I have not had an Advent wreath for many years. Thus, my granddaughter (age 7) and grandson (age 4 ½) had not shared this tradition with me.

So over these last four weeks, when they were with me, we would light the appropriate number of candles at our evening meal. I explained that the Jesus candle was the largest as Christmas is His birthday….. and we would light it on Christmas Eve as He is the light of the world.

As we chatted and I shared this tradition with them, two thoughts came to my mind….. for the light to appear, we have to actively light the candles…… and more importantly, to truly feel the glow and warmth of the candles, we need to share the light.

If the candles were burning and I was at home by myself eating dinner…well, it was ok but just ok. But sitting there with Lauren or Sean and sharing the light…. and telling them how important Jesus was….. well, it made all the difference in how the light looked and felt—sharing it with them made the light brighter—joy was there as well as laughter and the sharing of love.

The truth is—Christ may be the light of the world but we are the ones that need to light His candle and share it….. we have to hold the candle high for others to see.

And we can’t do that if we merely stay safe in our small world and never reach out to others.

That thought has become of greater significance in my life now as I recently was presented with a new opportunity—a new direction for my life. I will share more about this in my January story but for now, I will simply say that my choice was to continue to live quietly in my newly renovated and decorated home—to stay safe—to avoid risks or, I could expand my horizons and take some chances.

As I reflected on this new opportunity, the events of 2016, and the meaning of Advent, the thought came to me…..there is a reason the four advent candles are smaller in size—they are the candles lit during the time of waiting.

For me, 2016 was a year of waiting. There was waiting for furniture to be delivered; waiting for several months while a screen porch was renovated and a magical backyard was created; waiting for the chimney man to fix the chimney; for electricians to come; for painters to come; waiting for me to heal emotionally; and so forth.

But 2017 will not be a year of waiting. The four smaller Advent candles are now behind me and instead, the 5th candle—the “Happy Birthday Jesus Candle” and all He represents has been lit and is burning brightly.

I hope I will be able to share that light with others in 2017…. That I can share it by being a person who carries light inside of her and offers it to others…by a kind word….. a listening ear…. or by simply walking along beside them.

So, with that in mind….. Merry Christmas 2016 and Happy New Year 2017 to all of you—and to the end of waiting and to the beginning of sharing the joy that comes from a brightly burning 5th Candle.