Each week in December, my family lights a new candle in our advent wreath—a tradition many people observe throughout the Christmas season. My family always did advent candles when I was a little girl, and I have kept the same tradition with our own children—we follow the same pattern each year. The first week, we light a candle in remembrance of the prophets who foretold the birth of Jesus long before He was born. The following weeks, we remember the Angels in the Christmas story, the Shepherds in the fields, and Jesus’s mother, Mary. The final candle—the one in the center of the wreath is traditionally not lit until Christmas morning—when we celebrate the arrival of Jesus in Bethlehem!
If you have children, you may relate to this next part of my story. It rings true to the inevitable reality that no matter how hard we may try to create a perfect family memory—once kids enter the picture, SOMETHING always happens. Someone spills. Someone is irritable. The candlelighter is missing. SOMETHING! I try to roll with it—really, I do. We try to be the flexible parents—the ones that let the little things go, and make the best of it!
Well, this year, we sat down around our coffee table, ready to light the first candle of advent. It was our daughter’s turn (since OF COURSE we have to be sure everyone gets equal candle lighting opportunity to keep the peace!) and I helped her hold down the button on the child-proof candle lighter to light the first candle: The Prophets. She finished lighting the white candlestick, and then…SOMETHING.
May: “Mom, I want to light the Jesus candle”
Me: “No. It’s not Christmas yet.”
May: “But it’s the JESUS CANDLE!”
Me: “You have to wait.”
Then her brother chimes in:
Jeremiah: “But, mom. It’s Jesus. Jesus is ALWAYS WITH US.”
May: “He’s right! Jesus came and is ALWAYS with us!”
Both kids: “MOM! Please?! PLEASE?! It’s the JESUS candle!”
And there went tradition. Right out the window. And our Jesus candle has been steadily burning since our first night of Advent. Even as I am sitting here writing mid-afternoon on a Tuesday, it is flickering away—right in the face of tradition. Because, how can you argue with that? Jesus is always with us.
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel (which means ‘God With Us’).” Isaiah 7:14
And so, the Jesus candle is taking on a special new meaning for me this year. Jesus is Emmanuel. He is God With Us. At Christmas, we don’t celebrate and remember that Jesus WAS God With Us—we remember that He IS God With Us! What a sweet reminder that God gave me this year—even if it was only because a little girl wanted to light two candles instead of one—she was right.
Jesus is with us. Because He stepped down from Heaven and humbled Himself enough to be born in a stable. And because He died on a cross and rose again. Because of His great love for us, He came. He came and He is with us still. He IS Emmanuel.
I love traditions—and I am thankful to see God’s gentle hands at work in ours. May we be drawn closer to Him this Christmas as He has drawn near to us. And worship Him with all of our hearts as Emmanuel, God With Us.