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Light One Candle for Love

The second candle of Advent is the Bethlehem Candle and it symbolizes the preparations made to receive the Christ child born in Bethlehem. It is the candle of Love because making preparations for Christ to be born required a lot of love and sacrifice. Mary had to be prepared by her love and devotion to God to be considered for the calling of being the mother to Jesus. Her love for God is evident in her confident reply to the angel sent to tell her about God's plan. She simply said: I am the Lord's servant, May it be to me as you have spoken. (Luke 1:38) Joseph's heart had to be radically transformed by love for Mary and trust in God, not to divorce her, but to accept that the child was God's Son and that his fiance was still a virgin. It was love for Mary that motivated Joseph to be so persistent in finding the shelter of a stable in a town without vacancies. The couple lovingly received their son and tenderly cared for him by wrapping in warm cloths and making a bed for him from the manger. Love and preparations are rarely noticed. It is usually the final product that gets all the attention. Lighting a candle for love is putting the emphasis on the way you prepare for Christmas, as much as what happens on that day.

Just like Mary and Joseph there is a lot you must do to prepare for Christmas this year. You might be packing for a journey, or preparing for the birth of a baby too. Most of us are preparing by shopping, baking, decorating. All of the things we do for Christmas require preparation. We have to plan ahead. The preparing and the planning are not necessarily easy. Everyone loves the final result, but most underestimate the work and effort involved. It takes sacrifice, work and planning to make Christmas come together. When you light a candle for love, you are acknowledging your motivation to put out the extra effort you do at Christmas is because of your love for God and His people.

When you light a candle for love this advent, let it remind you to keep love in your heart through all your preparations. That means when you sit with your blinker on prepared to pull into a close parking space and someone comes in from the right and steals it from you; you can choose love for God and drive on, rather than cussing and screaming. If the perfect gift you were so excited about buying doesn't even get a word of thanks, move on without withholding acceptance.

Many women don't realize that giving real love at Christmas involves delegating responsibilities to others. Sometimes doing it all is really self-serving, a fear of sharing the attention, rather than a true service to others. People genuinely enjoy helping in the kitchen, wrapping gifts, going to the post office, running out to get something you forgot. Let others be a part of the process of creating a Merry Christmas. Enjoy spotlighting their contributions and allow sharing the preparations to be part of Christmas joy.

Take care of yourself. One way you can hinder a Merry Christmas for everyone is to burn yourself out with the preparations. If you plan more than you can do, spend or eat, and don't leave time to sleep, reflect and get replenished; you will end up putting a damper on everyone's holiday. Even if you have to do less than you wanted (perhaps let the Christmas cards go this year) it's better for you to be sane and happy at Christmas. Keep a list of the things you wanted to do this year, but didn't get time too, or the issues that caused the most stress, and make better preparations for next year. For example, if you had to skip the Christmas cards, buy some for half price after Christmas and send them out in January, or keep them and write on your calendar to have them ready by October next year.

Don't forget that a lot of love can sprout from a little in the world's perspective. The prophet Micah is the one who told us that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2) But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. This small town in Judah would be the birthplace of the Greatest Ruler ever known. Not only was the Messiah born in a small town, he was born to peasant parents. If the wise scholars of Israel were waiting for Messiah, they would never have expected Him to be the baby Jesus who was born there seemingly by accident. Jesus' parents weren't even among the socialites of Nazareth. No one of importance would have known them in Bethlehem. Yet, they were the first to experience real Christmas. Just like the first Christmas, the joyful celebration isn't dependent on how much money you spend, how much sleep you miss, and how hard you work; it is dependent on whether your love for Jesus Christ is the center of your Christmas.

As you are making all those preparations this Christmas, make sure to keep your candle of love burning bright.



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