The First Candle


“Who dares despise the day of small things?”

Zechariah 4:10


Welcome to the first week of Advent! Not being raised Catholic or Lutheran or Anglican or really anything with a fondness for ceremony, I sort of missed out on Advent celebrations as a child. I can imagine it being lovely to have a nostalgic tradition of Advent, but there’s something hopeful and fresh about coming to it as an adult too.

Well, at least, there will be when I actually find the perfect set of Advent candles… Target and Meijer have both failed us, and we haven’t had time to go any place better yet.

The beautiful thing about Advent is how open it is. There may be an overarching theme of preparation and celebration, but according to the Internet (which does not lie) there is no Advent police force to ensure that the progression is from Expectation, Annunciation, Proclamation, Fulfillment or Prophets, John, Mary, Magi.

Advent is simply a spiritual journey. My Advent need not be your Advent. Like Christianity itself, Advent is not a one-size fits nobody arrangement. And, this is what my first week of Advent is about:


The thing with feathers, according to Emily Dickinson, though I guess you could compare hope to a lot of other things too: acorns and eggs and hyacinth bulbs and the distant glittering of the night’s first star.

The unifying theme is that it must be small.

We don’t usually like small.

We want Big Things. We want fulfillment. We’re like two dimensional characters trying to accessorize ourselves into 3D. We want the book or the relationship or the bigger home or the baby or the job or the feeling, but satisfaction—or enlightenment or peace or whatever you want to call it—not the transient taste but the state of being—I don’t think that exists on our plane. I think that’s a 3D thing my 2D hands will never be able to grasp.

I don’t mean that to be depressing.

But, I get irritated sometimes with the well-groomed spiritual leaders who  insist we can all experience Deep Satisfaction and True Meaning In Life… and if we’re not then we just aren’t Doing It Right.

I don’t need another week to celebrate the American Dream or even the American Dream 2.0: Spirit of Steel. I need a week to contemplate the small things, the building blocks of hope.

Because, I don’t know about you, but my life is full of small things right now. Rejection letters with sincere compliments attached; the hesitant sharing of friends; $10 Christmas trees; the fleeting suspicion that God is more interested in our healing than our obedience.

We live on the plane of small things. We serve a God who prefers small things. To despise small things is to miss the point of everything and certainly the point of hope, which is by definition the opposite of everything that is big and shiny and fully materialized.

This is a week for celebrating small things.

For grateful acknowledgment of hope.

So, whatever your Advent reflections may be, I wish you a blessed, thoughtful journey through the season. Hard to believe it’s this time of year again, yet happy as always to see it come!


3 thoughts on “The First Candle

  1. Yay for celebrating small things! God did the very same through Jesus! I mean, how much smaller can a God come to this earth! It’s good to have one’s eyes wide wide open for the small things! Good reminder, thanks!

  2. I often think about that, especially after something comparatively “big” happens and then I have to get back to “normal” life without the next big thing on the horizon to look forward to. Do I want a spirit that runs as quickly as possible from big thing to big thing, always anticipating and never actually living? Or do I want to take notice of the small things, and actually revel in them, take a deep breath while washing the dishes and see the beauty out the front window, really appreciate the people I love, and feel God’s presence in the everyday? I have to recalibrate my eyes sometimes, get used to seeing what’s in front of me instead of keeping them always on the horizon. There is much in this very moment that is beautiful and good if only I would be willing to see it.

  3. So fun to be celebrating together across the miles. I love that about the church calendar. I’m rushing out to get my Advent candles today so we can light our wreath for the first time tonight! Hooray!

    I very much like your theme. Fits right in with how I’m thinking lately.

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