One of the claims made in the Gospels about Jesus Christ is that he is the “light of the world.” It is for this reason alone that there are candles on the Advent wreath. As the day light shrinks we light more and more candles on the wreath, culminating with the Christ-candle in the centre.
Originally, candles were placed on the altars in Churches so that people could see. Candles enabled people to read from the missal or the Bible, a very practical reason for their use. The symbolism was not lost on people and immediately candles took on the role of representing Jesus as the light of the world.
These same Gospels that proclaim Jesus as the light of the world also say that he is not the only light. The Gospels also proclaim that, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). A faith that is hidden is hardly a faith at all. Each of us has the light of Christ burning in us. As the Advent wreath grows in brightness, so too our faith grows and shines for all to see. Our faith shines by word and by action.
Bruce Cockburn’s song Lovers In A Dangerous Time has the defiant and memorable line, “Got to kick at the darkness, ‘til it bleeds daylight.” There is a certain defiance in our Advent wreath. The wreath defies the darkness and proclaims the light. It defies hatred and proclaims love. It defies cruelty and proclaims justice. It defies vengeance and proclaims forgiveness.
By acknowledging the power of the light that is Jesus, a power that defies all darkness, and knowing that I can’t hold a candle to him, I know that he asks that I try. And you try. And together our light will dispel all darkness. Light (and love, justice, forgiveness) will always prevail.