Today’s advent reflection is by Rob Bentz, the author of The Unfinished Church: God’s Broken and Redeemed Work-In-Progress. Rob and his wife Bonnie have been married for 17 years, have two children (Reid and Bethany) who like to laugh, and live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
My two young children were giggling. They squirmed in their chairs on both sides of our big wooden table. One of them asked me a strange question that drew restrained laughter from the other sibling. Then, in the holiest of all family Christmas moments, full-on belly laughter burst forth from both kids!
This was my family’s recent experience at the lighting of the first candle in our holiday advent wreath (or crown) tradition.
Each year, beginning on the first Sunday of the Advent season, our family strives to light a candle, pray together, and sing at least one Christ-centered Christmas carol. On each subsequent Sunday, we light an additional candle until all four outside candles are lit. Finally, on Christmas day, we gather to light the center candle, commonly known as the Christ candle. This signifies that the Lord has come!
The giggles and unintended silliness have also become part of my family’s tradition. Not intentionally, mind you. This father is trying his hardest to help instill in his children a genuine anticipation for the coming of the Christ child on Christmas day.
Our family’s innocent, albeit less-than-perfect, candle-lighting scenario has helped me to think afresh about the very context of Jesus’s birth.
Let’s revisit the popular birth narrative for a moment: Mary a teenage virgin, and her husband Joseph, were traveling by donkey on government business. With zero of the comforts of home, or even a clean place to relax, she gave birth to the baby boy in a farmer’s stable. The baby was then wrapped in common cloths and given a place to rest in a feeding trough. (Luke 2:1-20)
This is how God himself entered our world. Nothing perfect about the environment. Nothing pristine about the backdrop. Nothing polished about the surroundings. Jesus, the Christ, burst into our world in a not-so-idealistic setting.
I know this. I’ve read the birth narrative hundreds of times. But, in spite of my head knowledge of this biblical reality, my heart still longs for the idealized image of what our family’s Christmas is “supposed” to be—perfect, pristine and polished. I have this mistaken expectation that our annual advent tradition will somehow represent at least one of those p-words. Curious isn’t it? Especially when you consider the one who’s leading his family in the Scripture reading is perhaps the one most in need of some “good news.”
The truth is, my desire for perfection is misplaced. Perfection cannot be found in the dutiful actions of my kids, the beautiful singing of my wife, or even in our tender family moments praying together around some warmly-lit candles. It was in my family’s less-than-perfect experience around our advent wreath that God revealed my own heart’s deepest longing—for someone to set our messy world aright.
You know, the very reason God chose to enter our world in the first place.
Today’s advent reflection is by Rob Bentz, the author of The Unfinished Church: God’s Broken and Redeemed Work-In-Progress. Rob and his wife Bonnie have been married for 17 years, have two children (Reid and Bethany) who like to laugh, and live in Colorado Springs, Colorado. My two young children were giggling. They squirmed in their chairs […]