The first candle symbolizes Hope. In most Christian churches,
the four weeks leading up to Christmas is known as Advent. And part
of the celebration of Advent is the ceremonial lighting of candles
- one at the beginning of each week. Hope is the first candle,
followed by the candles of Preparation, Joy, and Love, with a final
Christ Candle lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
Last Sunday, we lit the candle of Hope in my church. What made
this particular lighting remarkable was that it came excitingly
close to going up in uncontrollable flames, taking all of the other
candles and the rest of the wreath-shaped arrangement with it.
The wick that was being used to light the Hope candle
unexpectedly fell out of its holder and plopped down into the bed
of evergreens beneath it. A few gasps from the congregation. A
moment of tense surprise. Then it simply fizzed and popped a bit
and went out on its own. The steady hand that was doing the
lighting calmly picked up a new taper and successfully lit the
candle on the second try. All was saved and Hope prevailed.
And Hope prevailed.
As I watched the flame of the Hope candle - small but sure - my
mind couldn't stop from wandering back over the past couple of
weeks of my own life. And how much "hope" had been intertwined and
integral to it within just that single measure of time.
On a small personal level, I recently got run over by my
82-pound dog, Indy. My fault entirely - but I have been left with
strained, sprained, and otherwise painfully stressed parts of my
entire left leg - mostly knee, hip, ankle ... a bit of my back.
I try to focus on the hope that it will soon pass. That I will
recover. And I am humbled by the courage of those who have no such
hope. Those who live with pain that will not cease or heal or even
ease. And I can't imagine what it would be like to be without such
Then, too, this is the season when we all start to come together
to fill shoeboxes and collection bins, angel trees and secret Santa
sacks - all with the singular intent of keeping hope alive and well
and living in the hearts of our children. Especially those children
who could have their hope extinguished as easily as a breath
against a candle flame.
Yet, even more recently, I have been working with the Equine
Rescue of Aiken [South Carolina] on a project for the Saratoga
WarHorse program. Learning about the amazing horses that have been
selected as participants, I have heard their histories of broken
hearts and ravaged spirits - and noted that the one shared triumph
among them is that they have somehow regained or held fast to their
And what of the veterans themselves? The one common thread that
seems to be woven throughout their own brokenness is their loss of
hope. While the one uncommon miracle woven throughout this program
is how hope is rekindled within them.
As my thoughts were drawn back again to the candle flame of
Hope, I marveled at the strength of its tiny brilliance. And I was
glad it is the first to be lighted at the beginning of Advent -
because then it will burn the longest.
And I considered that perhaps we should have rejoiced in its
near flaming start after all. Just imagine the possibilities if
Hope really did catch on fire.
Marti Healy is the author of the books "The God-Dog
Connection," "The Rhythm of Selby," "The Secret Child," and a
collection of her columns: "Yes, Barbara, There is an