Advent wreath with four candles lit in a darkened space
As children are to grown-ups, as candlelight is to sunlight, so our understanding …

Sometimes, something will happen in worship that takes me by surprise, and makes me think of things in a whole different way.

This year during Advent, our pastor has been giving the children’s message at the beginning of the order of service, and having the children light the Advent candles. There’s been one for hope, one for peace, one for joy, and this Sunday, the last one, for love. This morning, the youngest child in the congregation was the only one here – maybe because it’s Christmas Eve, and lots of people are either out of town visiting relatives, or in town entertaining relatives.

So after a little while of talking and engaging this little person, who is extremely energetic and enthusiastic, but not always … “on task” I think is what people say when kids get to school age, which this little person hasn’t even reached yet … our pastor pointed out that for a three year old, using the words of our faith to communicate … doesn’t work that well, because they’re pretty abstract …

And I’m sure he said something else, but I don’t know what it was, because I was too busy realizing that as that wonderful little person is to an adult, so we are to Jesus. Calvin was the one who said that God, in Scripture, “accommodates” to human weakness, speaking as it were in baby talk. But this morning, I thought – we’re like that about everything. We are, metaphorically speaking, doing the equivalent of getting distracted and running up and down the aisle of the sanctuary in the middle of worship and shouting out “look what I got!” in the middle of an explanation of something and basically having all kinds of trouble being “on task.”

All the stuff we know about theology, all the doctrinal arguments and in-fighting, fits the analogy, too; probably what that wonderful little person’s level of comprehension of things is to the grown-ups’, so ours is to the way things actually are. Thomas Aquinas was the one who, at the end of his life, said everything he had ever done (the Summa for heaven’s sake!) seemed to him like straw. The notion that we are in a position to say – or really, to think – that we ought to be in a position to understand everything is laughable.

By the time I stopped crying, they were on to lighting the candles. Wonderful Little Person lit all the candles – with help – and repeated all the words after our pastor. Hope! Peace! Joy! Love!

We may not understand those words very well. Just enough to know we are better off with them than without them. Thank you, Jesus.

Dear reader, I wish you hope, and peace, and joy, and love this season.