It was a dull thud that I heard from the front porch of the parsonage. I had an ominous feeling about it. I immediately opened the front door to check outside. There I found a box thrown and laid on its side. And I saw a UPS delivery truck leaving. As I was carefully picking up the box and bringing it inside, I was really hopping that the package wouldn’t contain the glass candleholders I ordered for the Advent wreath. But a bad hunch is never wrong. I opened the box and found what?
Yes, the broken glass candleholders. One of them got badly cracked up and barely held its shape, other two were half broken, and the other was almost totally shattered into pieces. Later, I noticed that it was not the delivery issue because there was no fragile warning label on the box. Even though I got enough undamaged ones, it was certainly disappointing.
Anyway, those unbroken ones are now here in our sanctuary, with this Advent wreath, holding the beautiful candles in them.
And even one of them is already bearing a light shining on the altar, as it symbolizes “hope” on this first Sunday of Advent. Then what about the broken ones? What happened to them? As a matter of fact, they are now in my cold garage waiting for the next recycling day to be thrown away. And I feel so bad for them.
Last Thursday, as making this Advent wreath and putting these glass candleholders and candles, I happened to think about those broken ones in the garage. Being broken and losing their original shape and purpose, they lost their possibilities to hold candlelight. Being broken, and sharp-edged and unsafe, they had to be separated and discarded. They cannot hold light, because of their brokenness. As my thought reached this point, I got to realize something… that as human beings, we are not really different. If we are too much broken, we become unable to bear light, the light of Christ within us.
But in our lives, we get to be broken in one way or the other, don’t we? Sometimes, we are helplessly broken by all the brokenness in our world—broken relationships, broken mutual trust among people, broken moral values, broken social, political, and economic systems. And sometimes, we just carelessly let ourselves be broken. We break each other’s heart with our words and deeds. We break ourselves, our integrity, by committing sins and choosing evil. And we don’t carefully tend our brokenness that we get from the hurtful experiences of loss, abuse, harassment, and discrimination, from the hard emotions of grief, anger, depression and so on.
We pretend as if we were strong but in fact, we are not. How fragile we are like glass candleholders! Whether we are badly cracked up and barely hold our shapes, whether we are half broken or totally broken into pieces, yes, we are living our lives today bearing certain fractures and ruptures within us. And being broken, we come to lose our original image—God’s likeness, lose our own purpose of life, and so lose our possibilities to hold the light. Being broken, we come to develop sharp-edges in our hearts and in our personality, and so we hurt others and become unable to share love and trust with open hearts. And if we continue to be like this, I am afraid, someday, that we may be thrown away and completely lost in darkness. Then, is there any way to mend our brokenness?
Yes, there is. Today, we better lend our ear to the prayer of the Prophet Isaiah. And as he did, we need to call upon the Lord who is our Creator, who is the potter, the glassmaker. Isaiah cries out, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence…. O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people” (Isaiah 64:1; 8-9). Like Isaiah, we may cry out to the Lord for our restoration, “O Lord, you are my Creator. You are my potter, the glassmaker. You created me in your image so you are the only one who can remold my broken shapes, who can put together the broken pieces in me and make me whole again. So have mercy on me, O Lord. Come and heal me!”
Sisters and brothers in Christ, today is the First Sunday of Advent. Advent is the season of waiting. But what are we waiting for? One thing for sure is that we are waiting for an answer to our cry for restoration. And yes, the answer is Jesus Christ who renews us. Advent is the time when we wait for this Christ who already came to save us but is also yet to come. So, when we call upon the Lord, we need to remember the Lord, our Redeemer, who gave himself up on the cross, who was broken in order to make us whole and to restore our relationship with God. And as we remember him on the cross, we also need to wait for the Lord who is to come in the future. Through his death and resurrection, he gives us the blessed assurance, the faithful promise, of the Day, the Day of ultimate healing, the Day when there will be no more death and mourning, the Day when we will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory” and wiping every tear from our eyes (Mark 13:26).
As we start off another season of Advent, I hope we don’t forget the true answer, the answer of Jesus Christ, which can heal our brokenness and lead us to hold the true light even in our fragile selves. And as the children of God and as God’s handiwork, I hope we also don’t forget the fact that we have God’s promise of the Day when we are completely transfigured like Jesus and abide in his everlasting light of life. Therefore, let us keep awake. Jesus is coming. Let us keep awake and count the days until we see the Lord. And from today, in the presence of the Advent Spirit, let us call upon the Lord, remember the Lord, and wait for the Lord always. Amen.