Advent season is one of my favorite times of the year. It is a season full of anticipation and hope. In my family growing up we always kept an Advent wreath whose four burning candles reminded us of the spirit of the season and served to build anticipation for the coming joy of the Christmas celebration. Just the other day I was powerfully reminded of the symbolic importance of the Advent wreath through a beautiful allegory a close friend shared with me. It goes like this:
Four candles were quietly burning. The wind was calm so that it was possible to hear their conversation. The first candle said: “I am Peace, but no one seems to be able to keep me lit forever, so I think I am going to be put out.” Then, its glow started getting dimmer until it completely extinguished.
The second candle said: “I am Faith, and I don’t find myself necessary anymore; there is not point of my staying lit any longer.” Just as it finished saying this, a strong wind blew and put the candle out.
The third candle sighed sadly and said: “I am Love and I don’t have the strength to stay lit, because people have placed me aside and don’t understand my importance anymore; they even forget to love the closest people to them.” So the third candle went out too.
Suddenly a little kid walked in and saw that the three candles were not lit. He asked them “why did you go out, weren’t you supposed to stay lit until the end?” and he broke into tears.
Just then, the fourth candle spoke and said: “don’t be sad my friend, because as long as I am lit I can light the other candles as well. I am Hope.” The kid’s eyes sparkled; he took the fourth candle, and with it he lit the other three candles- Peace, Faith, and Love!
For me this is an important reminder that hope is an integral part of our Christian faith. The reality of Christ’s birth reminds us that God has a plan to conqueror the pain, sufferings and misfortunes of humanity’s existence. That plan consists of the birth of the Christ child in a manger 2,000 years ago. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the “ultimate hope” let us reflect on our own abundance or dearth of this vital virtue. Is our “Hope” candle still burning bright? If so, you may be surprised at how many other candles you can light, and how many lives you can touch.