By: Joyce Vance

Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas: We blow out the candle of fear and light the candle of love.

Lectionary texts: Isaiah 9:2-7; Luke 2:1-20

A child has been born! During the time of preparation, expectant parents have both joy and fear; hope and anxiety; confidence and doubt. What will the child be like? How will their world change when he or she is born? When will the arrival take place? Will the child be a boy or girl? Will they be good parents? What will the future hold?

Surely, Mary and Joseph had these same emotions when they received the announcement of this most unexpected child that would be coming into their lives. Considering the strange circumstances of the child’s birth they must have had tremendous fear. Yet, when they began to understand what was happening, Mary sang for joy (Luke 1:47-55) out of love for what God was doing through her and (I think) also for her love of the child. Following a dream, Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt for safe keeping. In this story, we see how fear is transformed into love. Both fear and love are verbs that show action but, are they equal? As Christians, we see how love can overpower fear even during a crisis or life-changing event.

I have been working with small groups in our church to recall the intersection of God’s story with our stories, times when our individual lives have joined with God’s. We realize, in many cases, that we experience encounters with God while living in fear, uncertainty, frustration, or brokenness. As Christians, we are not promised a smooth path in life, but that God will be with us on whatever road we travel; sometimes seen and acknowledged and other times our blinders hide the presence of God. As the class processed these encounters, they saw the love of God had guided their way out of their fears. The candle of fear was blown out and the candle of love was lit!

Bob Goff wrote in the book Love Does that every time he types “love” into his phone, auto-correct changes it to “live.” My phone does not do this, but his point is to love is to live. Love is shown in action through living. We come to this fourth week of Advent with the emotional expectations of the what Christmastide will bring to our church and family. We welcome the child as if we were the shepherds or magi with high emotions and deep devotion of love. Do we turn our emotions into actions as we welcome the Christ Child? Have we participated in projects to help others? Have we served the lonely, hungry or sick? Have we proclaimed the message of Christ’s birth to ones that have never have heard the good news? In other words, as we welcome the child Jesus, have we also followed the man Jesus in living the life he modeled and taught? How will we take the candle of love forward into the new year? The message of Advent and Christmas is for all time, all year, all people! Blow out the candle of fear and light the candle of love to carry forth into God’s realm.

Joyce Vance is Director of Christian Education at Peace Moravian Church in Charlotte, NC. She is the Moravian Church representative to APCE and serves on the Advocacy Ministry Team.