Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”
This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
- John 21:20-24
In the scripture above, Jesus is talking about His return. During Advent, we need to be mindful of that. In lighting the first Advent candle, Hope, we are reminding ourselves that Jesus will return soon.
Whether you have a church that lights candles around an advent wreath or not, this may still amuse you. Maybe not. It may just be my sense of humor.
Our church has an Advent Wreath. It is properly laid out with the three purple candles, one pink candle, and at the Christmas Eve evening services, the large white Christ candle will be lit. About the only change from the lighting ceremony of 20 years ago is the fact that the candle is lit by a barbeque grill lighter instead of the brass candle lighters with adjustable tapers.
It is odd that we went from one form of technical difficulty to another in lighting the candles. With the old system, the taper was usually lit at the back of the church and walked forward. Often, the taper would blow out along the way. Also, if a novice didn’t install the new taper properly, it wouldn’t stay lit or burn too quickly. Now, the grill lighter has a safety switch. If you don’t hold the switch while pressing the button to light the lighter and maintain fuel to the lighter, it won’t even spark. The volunteers don’t practice enough. When they get in front of a couple hundred people, they get nervous. This leads to many failed attempts in getting the lighter lit. On a rare occasion, the preacher steps in.
Of course, we light the candles in the correct order. Each week an additional candle is lit, but in week one it is only a purple candle, Hope, that is lit. Then the second week, Love, is added. The pink candle is Joy, and is always the third week. The fourth week is the last purple candle, Peace. There is disagreements over the meaning of the candles, among and sometimes within denominations. The Catholic Church uses Hope, Faith, Joy, and Peace. Some churches go with Expectation, Hope, Joy, and Purity. All of these have the pink, Joy, candle on the third Sunday of Advent. I am sure there are other traditions.
The following story is a memory from a recent First Advent Sunday candle lighting. The ceremony is very simple. The volunteer family is usually made up of two parents and at least one child. If the child is old enough to handle the lighter properly, they can light the candle. If the children are teen-agers, they might just do everything. In this case, it was a family with very small children.
What I thought was amusing, not really funny, was that I noticed that the father was reading from his phone. Liturgy by Smartphone, a first in my experience. The preacher must have sent him an e-mail or text on what to say. He explained the meaning of the first candle. There was very little problem with the lighter, maybe two clicks of the spark before it was lit. It looked like he was going for the wrong candle, but he corrected himself. Then, he handed the phone to his wife. She stared at the screen and handed the phone back. The father scrolled down until the prayer was visible and handed the phone back. She then read the prayer.
I doubt if anyone else even noticed. My wife asked if he was reading from his phone, so at least she noticed. When the mother had to get her husband to scroll down, I chuckled, silently.
I thought to myself “What will be the next change?” Will it all be computerized? Will we get away from wax candles and use electric lights? Like I said at the beginning, you may not think this a funny story, but it looked out of place. In another year, I might not even notice.
And was this change accidental? Did the preacher send him the liturgical script at the last minute or did the father’s printer fail? So many questions, but I dared not ask. It might be a source of embarrassment when I was only enjoying that tiny difference that added a spark to the service.
If we go computerized, I’m all for that. I wrote a Christmas pageant for our church in South Carolina in 1981. Our children’s choir director quit suddenly and I volunteered to get us past Christmas. I introduced the children to Rufus, my computer. Actually, he pronounced his name Roooofus, because I had to adjust spelling of some words for the late 70s voice synthesizer to speak so that the audience could understand what he was saying. Just think of the technology of the time. Yes, the computer actually talked based on the script that I fed into it, child’s play today. The children were excited. The premise of the pageant was that Rufus liked all of the Christmas lights, but what was going on? What was Christmas all about? The children would explain something. We’d sing a Christmas Carol. Then Rufus had even more questions. If you are wondering, the old computer, the script, etc. are all lost after many moves since then.
As far as the technology today, our younger son is coming down with laryngitis, not good for a school teacher. For one of his classes yesterday, he typed all instructions into the computer and had the computer read them to the class. That saved his voice so that he could make it through the rest of the day.
Technology has come a long way in the past35 years. It will continue to change the way we worship. The change may not be good or bad. It will be different, and the next generation won’t even notice.
Whatever happens next, I am ready. After all, Advent is a season of expectation. God, amaze me.