Lighting the candles on the Advent wreath was a tradition in my family. The wreath, which my father made larger and larger each year, would be placed on the dining room table come Sunday evening. I knew this was a special moment because we only ate at that table for birthdays or holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Once gathered for our meal, my parents allowed my brother or sister or me to light a candle. While this is a fond childhood memory, it is also a memory that taught me the meaning of courage. My brother is disabled, and his coordination is not the best. His hands aren’t steady, so there was tension rising in the room when he held a match over the evergreen that could quickly become a pile of kindling. My brother’s first attempt failed. A second match was lit and burned out before it reached the candle. When the third match did drop onto the wreath, there was chaos that involved a glass of eggnog dousing the smoldering needles. I don’t remember the smell of burning evergreen, though. What I remember is how deflated my brother looked. I can still hear his voice choking through tears, asking, “Can someone help me?” I learned that night that our inabilities aren’t something to be ashamed of. In our struggles, God’s grace shines, showing us, with help, that all things are possible. I learned that true courage is being able to admit you need help, and there’s no shame in that. Howard Thurman once said that what every person wants is to know they are not journeying alone. We all want to know that we are cared for. Eventually the Advent candles around our family wreath were lit. The fire department was never called. We all smiled, including my brother.
Great God, who sees the shaking hands and the trembling hearts, come to me in my moments of doubt. Help me remember that with you by my side, I can do all things. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
As uncomfortable as it might be, take time to sit with something you are struggling with. Find the courage to face it, to name it and to ask for help.