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'Hope Is A Candle'

'Hope Is A Candle'

Sunday December 22 2013

An exclusive series of Advent reflections by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev Lorna Hood.

 

Fourth Sunday (December 22)

 
Love is a candle whose light makes a circle,
Where every face is the face of a friend.
Widen the circle by sharing and giving –
God’s holy dare: love everywhere.
 
We light the fourth candle of love and touch the essence of the gospel and the heart of God.
Throughout the Bible we read of God's love for His creation and how that love led Him to constantly take the initiative; always coming to His people; always seeking them out; always forgiving them; always showing that His love would not give up hope.
 
That thread runs right through the Old Testament with passages like Hosea: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son…  How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel?”
 
That thread runs straight to the stable in Bethlehem, from there to the cross and on to the empty tomb.
 
The Bible from beginning to end is a love story…a story of God’s love for us. What we don't find in Scripture is an explanation for this love. We read simply that God loves us....because he loves us.
 
We are called to accept that love and live out the commandment to love one another. Only then will the hope, joy and peace of Christmas become not just a longed for ideal but a reality in our troubled world.

Third Sunday (December 15)

 
Joy is a candle of mystery and laughter,
mystery of light that is born in the dark;
laughter at hearing the voice of an angel,
ever so near casting out fear.
 
The third Sunday in Advent and we light the candle of joy. When Jesus was preparing the disciples for his approaching death, he reminded them of his purpose in coming: "I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete". Joy in the midst of sadness may seem incongruous yet so often joy and sorrow are intertwined.
 
On this Sunday the world will watch as South African President Nelson Mandela is laid to rest in his ancestral home. He was a man who after 27 years of imprisonment lived out a life of reconciliation and forgiveness exuding an air of such obvious joy - an infectious joy that was evident to all who were touched by his life. Yet that joy could never be separated from all that he endured. He once said: "Because of my imprisonment I was able to lead my country out of apartheid.  For that I do not feel bitterness, but joy."
 
Those who have tasted the sadness of loss or pain seem to understand  more clearly the joy that is not superficial but reaches down deep within us assuring us of the love that will not let us go.

Second Sunday (December 8)

 
Peace is a candle to show us a pathway,
threatened by gusts from our rage and our greed.
Friend, feel no envy for those in the shadows –
Violence and force their dead-end course.
 
On this second Sunday of advent the candle of peace will glow alongside our candle of hope on the Advent Wreath; two flickering flames, summing up the prayers of so many at this time of advent, as we hope for peace in our world.
 
The cynic and even perhaps the realist would say it is a far off dream. We sing of peace in our carols- gentle music, caressing our deepest longings. Perhaps we even allow ourselves to imagine just what a peaceful world would look and feel like. It fits in with the cosiness of Christmas, and is packed away with the decorations and festive lights.
 
But as we look on the candle burning brightly we must do more than dream or yearn for a better more peaceful world. Following the baby born in the manger, implicates us in striving after that peace. God does not work alone although sometimes he works in spite of us; as the carol says in spite of 'our gusts of rage and our greed'. May we join with Him at this Advent time, seeking to make a difference in our world, not in a far off future but where we are now.

Advent Sunday (December 1)

 
Hope is a candle, once lit by the prophets,
never consumed, though it burns through the years;
dim in the daylight of power and privilege -
when they are gone, hope will shine on.
 
In churches on this first Sunday of advent the first candle will flicker into life on our advent wreaths; a candle of hope.
 
Flickering against the darkness of the world that surrounds us, this fragile flame reminds us that our journey along the road to Christmas has begun. Burning against the winds of the age, this candle telling us that because God has come amongst us, hope remains.
 
Hope that wars will cease and all God's children can live in peace. Hope that no child will go to bed hungry and no old person die alone. Hope that justice and truth will prevail. Is that too much to hope for? Not if we believe in the God who came among us and surprised us as tiny fragile baby. Not if we believe in the God who still comes, still surprising us.
 
Advent with its emphasis on hope forces us to imagine a world beyond what we see and touch. Advent forces to think on the world and people as God meant us to be.