Waiting for a Miracle

Bringing warmth and light with advent candles

As the nights get darker, and the afternoons get shorter, and the icicles form on the windows, I slip into a sort of winter melancholy. Darkness can be warm, and even cozy if you’re tucked in your bed, your belly full, and surrounded by sleeping family members.

Darkness can also be just black, bleak and blah. I think of people we know who struggle with disease, broken relationships, the challenges of aging, and others whose names and tragedies come with the news every day. The blah can sink into a hollow despair.

So our family gets out a wooden Advent candle holder in the shape of a spiral that sits flat on our kitchen table. It has 25 holes that turn towards a central and final hole. We keep the electric light low, and every evening meal of Advent we add one candle and light it. A little wooden figure of a woman on a donkey follows the spiral, moving toward the centre, just behind the candle that has been most recently lit.

Our prayers at dinner are for the coming of the light, and as we approach the darkest day of the year, our table gets brighter and brighter. Some days it’s even too brilliant – the wax floods down and over, and a candle snuffs out, finished. My kids love playing with such sputtering fire and molten wax. But the next day a new candle is lit, and the promise is carried to another day, and Mary moves another few centimetres towards the centre.

I imagine Isaiah and Handel’s Messiah rumbling that promise: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light, and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”


  • Peter is Executive Director of Global Scholars Canada, a transnational guild of Christian scholars. He preaches, teaches and writes – having written columns, editorials, news and features for CC since 1997. His book The Subversive Evangelical: The Ironic Charisma of an Irreligious Megachurch (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019) is an ethnographic journey into the life of a megachurch and its “irreligious” charismatic leader. He loves stories that cross boundaries while maintaining integrity.

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