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The Meaning of Lighting Candles at Advent

As light pierces darkness, there’s promise of the Lord’s coming.
Advent candle

We light candles at Advent. We set them on our windowsill so they can shine out to all who pass by. A way of proclaiming the promise of our Lord’s coming. Light the light, or as the gospel of John puts it, “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:3-5).

There is a lot of darkness in the world. All the more reason to let our lights shine. Candles in every window.

Okay, the candles are electric, but they say the same thing. The light is coming. It will shine in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.

The symbolism of light at Christmas cannot be denied. Think of that star in the East that guided the wise men so they could honor the Christ Child with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (It’s worth noting that nothing in the Bible says they were kings or that there were three of them. So much for “We three kings of Orient are…”)

Jesus himself declared, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). The beginning of that walk comes at Advent as we prepare ourselves for the birth of Christ. I think of that as I fetch the extension cords and check the bulbs on those candles making sure they work.

I can feel them illuminating my soul in the process. I can think of people I’ve known, people I’ve worked with and worshipped with, how they lit up, the very light of Christ could be seen in their work, their service, their kindness, their love. They light up.

Turn to another gospel writer and read what Jesus said about us being lights.

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

The one light would not be possible without the other. We are the light of the world when we let God’s light shine through us.

One more candle tradition for Advent. We’ll have a wreath at our table with four candles, one for each Sunday of Advent, and a big candle in the middle for Christmas. We do it in church too, light the candles for Advent, looking forward to the day when that center candle is lit.

I might light that first candle with a match, but then the next and the next and the next can be lit with the candle that’s already illuminated. The light passed along.

It’s Advent. Christmas is coming. Let your light shine. And pass along that good news.

READ MORE: Our Editors’ Favorite Advent Candles and Holders

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