During the Season of Advent (the four weeks prior to Christmas), BPC member and professional conductor Vicki Gau (shown below with her daughter) shared in Worship her response to the question, “What Does Advent Mean to Me?”
I light a lot of candles in Advent.
The day I caught my first glimpse into the beauty of Advent, I was an angel. Well, I can’t say whether I had been a metaphorical angel, but, quite literally, I was a 5th grade angel in a Christmas Eve pageant at a small church in rural North Carolina where my father was pastor. As we held candles in the darkened church, my father read these words from the Gospel according to John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God; 3 all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” I listened to these beautiful words about a light in the darkness and felt the warmth of the candle on my face and the glow of its light and something new stirred inside me.
As I grew, I gradually became aware that all the trappings of the season – as much as I loved them, were ephemeral. But the stillness, the wonder of waiting and watching as darkness quite literally covers the earth with the approaching solstice and looking forward to that great light is an experience that we can all share with confidence, year after year.
In my work, I lead countless Alleluias and Jingle Bells and He is Borns throughout December in a parade of Christmas concerts. I don’t mind this, as it’s part of the joy of the season for me, highlighting what it is that I’m waiting for (and, yes, there is joy in anticipation). But I come to church in Advent to remind myself of the wonder and awe of that waiting. When the bass soloist in Messiah sings the words from the prophet Isaiah, “the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light”, I remember that long-ago awakening with the candle in my hand. And at home I light a lot of candles to remind myself of that coming Light in the darkness. Because that is what Advent means to me.