“This first candle in the advent wreath,” I told my kids as I clicked the lighter and set its flame atop the wick, “represents hope. What does that word mean to you guys?”
In the warm glow of the purple taper, we talked about everything from wishes and Christmas presents to the thornier topics of politics and peace. And while it wasn’t a perfect discussion, I think it accomplished the spiritual goal of the ceremony—to get us all thinking about the future.
If you’ve never used an advent wreath to mark the weeks leading up to Christmas, I highly recommend doing so. It is a rich and interesting practice begun by Martin Luther and observed by many Christians. In brief, it works like this: Each of the four Sundays before December 25, you light a candle and reflect on what it represents through responsive readings, songs and prayers. The first week is focused on hope, the second on peace, the third, joy, and the fourth, love. The color of these candles varies depending on denominational traditions, but most use three purple candles and one pink to correspond to the colors of the garments worn by pastors during each Sunday’s service. Also, many wreaths have a fifth candle in the center, a white one, which represent Jesus Christ. That one is lit on Christmas Eve.
Rather than allow this holy season to be hijacked and turned into a glitter-drenched nuisance to be endured rather than enjoyed, traditions like the advent wreath help us remember that we can wait in a sense of anticipation and expectation for the better day that is to come. It reminds us of the reason for our hope. And, as Andy Dufresne says in the film The Shawshank Redemption, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
After the kids had gone outside to finish their Sunday playing in leaf piles, and my husband had planted himself on the couch to watch the Atlanta Falcons trounce the Arizona Cardinals, I sat drinking coffee and watching that single candle flicker as it slowly grew dark in my cozy kitchen. I thought about hope—where it comes from and what purpose it serves—and what it means to live the tension of what many Christian thinkers refer to as the “already, but not yet.”
I also considered hope in light of MS and the many changes it has produced in my life and realized that rather than snuff-out my faith, the disease has actually strengthened it.
MS is no longer a death sentence, no longer a reason to give up on life. Sure, there are challenges, and each of us walks a different path on the journey to healing and wholeness. But there is more positive news coming out than ever before. I don’t know about you, but I can’t keep up with all the new treatment options doctors are discovering. (There are so many that entire columns on this website are devoted to covering them!) Patients are living fuller lives thanks to therapies and medical assistive devices. Celebrities and “average” folks (though I use that term loosely) are having honest conversations about multiple sclerosis and helping one another by sharing their struggles.
This is no longer a malady that is spoken of in whispers or admitted to in shame. Call me naïve, but I firmly believe a cure for the damnable disease we all know and hate will be found in my lifetime.
Yes, even in the darkest times, there is cause for hope.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.