Stoking the flames of Advent [excerpt]

We’d rather talk about the easier and safer things. What do we do when we come face to face with the raw pain present in many lives? Such pain and grief may be all around us — behind us in the checkout line, in front of us at a stoplight, beside us in church.

In my living room, we also have a fireplace that we like to use in the winter. Just several feet from the artificial lights on our tree that eventually burn out is a place for God’s natural gift of light and heat that will burn for as long as it has wood and oxygen. Fire is a much more apt image and one that is used in scripture for God. Throughout centuries of Christian tradition, a simple flame on a candle has symbolized the presence of Christ. If God is indeed “a consuming fire,” it is God who provides the light; we simply allow our lives to be consumed.

I have to wonder if we sometimes have expectations of ourselves and others that are too much like the artificial lights. We’re expected to shine bright, so long as we’re plugged in. We are expected to produce our own light, and if not, we could get discarded and replaced.

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