My children love the chocolate-filled Advent calendars found this time of year at any drugstore. They wait with joyful anticipation to open the little doors to reveal tiny, Christmas themed chocolates. In the mornings, they giggle (or fight, because this is real life, after all) as they eat a present or stocking shaped treat. My son, at 11, is becoming less excited about the calendar, but he plays along for his sister, who is still six and very much enchanted with the little doors.
This year, I found her one night at our kitchen island with her Advent calendar, all the doors open, most of the chocolates gone. When I reminded her of what she already knows — that she is only to open one door a day — she exclaimed (with chocolate all over her face), “But Mom, I’m just a little girl who loves Advent calendars!” I looked at her with her curly hair, all unruly, her six-year-old face trying to gauge the reaction she searched for in my own tired, almost 42-year-old one. Despite myself, I couldn’t help but smile at her. She’s just a girl who loves Advent calendars, who loves chocolate, who loves the excitement that this Christmas season brings.
Later, I thought more about her words and wondered, like I often do, if I’m doing enough to raise children who love Christmas, the real meaning behind it, not just the chocolates of the drugstore calendars, not just the elf that visits here, not just the glitz and the glamour this season offers. Am I raising children who might say, “But Mom, I’m just a little girl who loves Advent!”? Like the bare bones of what that means? The down and low but almighty high meaning of the barn and the hay and the swaddling clothes? The glow of the star the sky? Am I showing them the way to the One born to this Earth, the then and now Son and our forever Father, the light in all the darkness of a cold winter?
When the winter finally turned cold here in Pennsylvania, I rounded up all the taper candle holders I could find in my house and I even took old medicine bottles and turned them into taper holders, placing them on my mantel. I ran into my favorite consignment and antique stores in my mask to buy more — discarded brass ones of all shapes and sizes, a few even heart-shaped. For some reason, I crave candlelight, the soft glow, the flickering in the dark, the safe haven kind of feeling they give this old house. Since 2020 has brought so many changes for so many, my family included, I want the kind of home that feels safe from it all, a reprieve from the weight we all carry on our shoulders, a place we feel like we truly belong.
The candlelight seems to help. A few nights ago, the power went out here and the candles were all lit in the complete dark. The glow cast the most spectacular light show on the faces of my people in the flicker — joyful, unburdened in the glow of the candles, alive and well and mine — the man I spend my life with, the boy who is almost as tall as me, the little girl with the golden hair, glowing like a halo in the flame. Our Advent wreath was lit too, its candles for hope, love, joy, and peace ablaze, early, but I don’t think Jesus would mind.
And all became clear to me then and the message was received: Advent is about the wait in the darkness for the lights to come back on.
Advent is about the searching in our hearts the way I searched for a lighter to bring light to my home here on the hill. We wait in the darkness until the Christ-Child is born in the barn, until we rejoice with the light His birth brings. Nothing more, nothing less. Isn’t it this flicker, this candle, the birth of this holy Baby who can save us from the despair we feel this year, more than ever? Isn’t this the bare bones kind of celebrating we all maybe need now?
I guess I’m just a girl who loves Advent? The calendars filled with chocolate shapes might have their place in our home forever, my daughter’s words always remembered. I picture myself sending her boxes of these calendars someday when she leaves our house for college or even when she’s an adult, maybe with children of her own who love Advent calendars too.
For now, we live in the flicker, together, the glint and shimmer of hope, love, peace, and joy. The flicker of that One light in the ever-growing darkness who can show us the way Home — He who is home. For now, I cultivate home with these children I’ve been gifted and we celebrate Advent with calendars but with candles too, the glow a reminder of the safe haven Advent promises if only we choose to search for it, that One true candle in the darkness, the One true star in the sky.
Written for Devotionals Daily by Kara Lawler, author of Everywhere Holy.
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This year has been dark. So dark. Christ left us His light within us and He is the Light returning to us. Let’s remind ourselves of the hope within us and the Home ahead of us by lighting candles this Advent! Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you about the candlelight that represents Christ Jesus! ~ Devotionals Daily