Advent Light

By Rev. Dr. Kenneth Daniel  •  December 07, 2023

Advent was an important time in our family. I am an only child, so my memories are about small gatherings. Our church prepared a series of weekly meditations for families that included a Bible story, a prayer, and a carol. We lit the Advent wreath candles each week and added another piece to the manger until Christmas Eve when baby Jesus was placed in the creche.

My job was to accompany the family on my plastic clarinet. We would huddle together in a small alcove in front of our manger set. It was simple, short. But it was our way as a family to stay in the Advent perspective, as the weeks before Christmas unfolded. Now I would give anything to relive an Advent moment, especially since both of my parents are gone.

Advent Candles

Advent is a season of hope and expectation that is celebrated by Christians around the world. It is a time of preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ, which is celebrated on Christmas Day. The season of Advent is marked by the lighting of candles on an Advent wreath, with each candle representing a different aspect of the season.

This year, when the world seems anything but ready for the Redeemer’s peace, love and joy, I enter Advent feeling more of darkness than light. The Bible warns of wars and rumors of wars foreshadowing the end times. This year it seems there are not just rumors, but too many real wars in the world. If we ever needed the Redeemer’s light, it certainly is now.

candles multipleYet we Christians can light our Advent wreaths again knowing our small candles can be joined building a radiance the world cannot dim.

Memories of Advent

I recall special afternoon workshops at our church in which everyone would come together. We would do crafts, decorate the building for the holidays, and have a meal. The kids, me included, would occasionally escape to run around the building. Sometimes the deacons chased us down and sent us back to our classrooms. Then, with red faces and untucked shirttails, we met our parents for dinner and ended with worship.

I remember those Sunday evenings in early December when we sat in the sanctuary. The stained-glass windows looked eerie and dark, opposite of how they looked during the day with light streaming in. Though the windows were dark, inside the church we felt connected, warmed by the fellowship and faith we shared.

God’s Light

One time our pastor observed that during the day, God’s light streams in. But at night, our light streams out to the world around us. There was a sermon illustration and a metaphor for Advent.

The candles represent the hope, peace, joy and love that comes from knowing that God loves us and has created the light to redeem us. It reminds us that even amid suffering and pain, we can find joy in God’s love.

Our Jewish friends also mark the hope of this time through the celebration of Hannukah. In the tradition, the miracle is the lamp whose oil outlasts the impending darkness until Israel has overcome its enemies. The light was expected to run out, but miraculously lasted eight days.

Like my family shining our little light out accompanied by my plastic clarinet, like the stained-glass windows shining out into the nights, like the lamps that defy the meager resource and persist to push back the darkness—this is the real message of Advent to me. And I still have that old creche set. And though I am no longer a child, it still brings memories that continue to shine into my own life and faith.

May you be graced by a light that also illuminates your hearts at this special time of the year.


Download a pdf including the Reflection Questions to share and discuss with friends, family, or members of your faith community small group.

 See next page for Reflection Question 

For Reflection (either individually or with a group)

Read the blog. Read it a second time, maybe reading it aloud or asking someone else to read it aloud so you can hear it with different intonation and emphases. Then spend some time with the following questions with anything that helps you reflect more deeply.

Invite the questions to join you for tea or coffee. 

  • Do you have a special memory from Advent? What makes it stand out for you?
  • How does the knowledge that you are loved by God make a difference in your life?
  • As you light an Advent candle, what commitment will you make to sharing your light of God’s love, hope, joy, and peace with the world around you?

About the Author

Rev. Dr. Kenneth Daniel

Rev. Dr. Kenneth V. Daniel, Chief Executive Officer of United Church Homes joined the organization in 2011. He serves as Chief Executive Officer of Radiant Alliance, a newly formed non-profit collaboration which includes United Church Homes, Metta Healthcare (Ohio’s Hospice, Pure Healthcare) and Genacross Lutheran Services. Over the past 30 years, Rev. Daniel has worked in a variety of leadership positions in senior living, healthcare and housing services, and as a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator. Rev. Daniel had a 19-year career with Phoebe Ministries in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He then served for two years as Executive Director of Ingleside at Rock Creek in Washington, D.C. prior to assuming his role at United Church Homes. He earned a master’s degree from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities where he received the Distinguished Alumni award in 2016. In 2019, he received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Heidelberg University for his outstanding service to the United Church of Christ and United Church Homes. Rev. Daniel has earned Fellow and Certified Nursing Home Administrator status with the American College of Health Care Administrators. He is the former Chairman of the Board of LeadingAge Ohio and was named Visionary Leader of the Year in 2022. He currently serves on the Board of LeadingAge national.

View all articles by Rev. Dr. Kenneth Daniel