My nine-year-old daughter just went on a field trip with her third grade class to Log Cabin Village, where they got to experience, for a few hours, life in the pioneer days. When I asked her what her favorite part was, she enthusiastically told me about candle-making. Each child got to dip two ends of a cotton wick into tallow repeatedly. As the tallow cooled and hardened between dips, two tapers were formed. The third graders had a blast, but for true pioneer folk, this was an exhausting job. For a one-room cabin, my daughter tells me, a pioneer woman would need to make four hundred of these home-made candles to get through the year. Can you imagine having to make four hundred candles every year on top of all the other things that we mothers have to do? Our pioneer counterparts, who labored, planned, and saved just to have dim lighting on occasion, would not have dreamed of the luxury of a brilliantly lit room at the flip of a switch. Yet without the perspective of life without electricity, we take it for granted.
Today in our home, candles are for special occasions such as the Advent season. Every year during this time, three purple and one rose colored candle, ringed in evergreen foliage, are set in the middle of the family room on a table. When we gather around for the blessing of the wreath, I remind my family that each of the four candles stand for one thousand years in which God’s people waited for the promised savior. The lesson is most probably lost on the youngest kids as they fight over who will light, who will blow out, and what colors will get lit. Then, night after night, the little ones struggle to get the child-proof lighter to give a glowing flame and then lead the family in the words, “The Light of the World is coming!”
The pioneer candle-making has shed new light on Advent for me. I can’t help but see a parallel. We, who live two millennia after the birth of Christ, most probably take for granted that the Savior has come. The chosen people of God waited, hoped, and believed that God was going to rescue them. Through times of favor and of failure, the Jews prayed, sacrificed, and yearned to experience freedom—even simply from human oppression. They would not have dreamed that God himself would take on flesh and come to dispel their deepest darkness and save all of mankind from the grip of sin.
We, who know Jesus and walk in the radiance of his love, need this season to reflect on life before the Incarnation. Without the perspective of those four thousand long years (or 35,040,000 long hours) of anticipation, we may not truly appreciate the expectant faith, the trust, or the longing with which God’s people awaited the true Light of the World!
Jesus, Light of the World, help us to yearn for you with the longing of our fathers in the faith. May our hearts and homes not take for granted the enormity of the gift of your coming. Maranatha!