Reflecting on the Second Week of Advent – The Grace Candle

This past week was the second week of Advent and in my church, we lit the “Grace Candle”. So similar to last week, I tried to keep the meaning of the week at the forefront on my mind. What did “grace” mean to me this week? It can be both a frustrating and wonderful experience asking yourself the same question throughout the week. Anyway, there are a thousand thoughts and angles you can come up with.

When you start meditating about “grace”, you generally go to what you were originally taught – it’s God’s goodness without merit, it’s something given to you completely undeserved, etc. Upon reflection, it’s rather humbling thought to say the least, especially in our culture where we generally feel we are entitled to many of the things we have.

Throughout this week, I’ve been wondering about things like the grace it takes to forgive. I know God Himself is the greatest example of this, and I dare not take this for granted but I’ve been thinking about the grace it takes for us to forgive each other. I’ve also been thinking about the grace it takes to be kind, welcoming and loving. I know that sounds “basic” as it’s somewhat doable (or at least the desire to is). But to practice such actions to the people we care about and applying to these virtues to everyone is … well quite exhausting. At some point, our failures in doing so leave us discouraged with sentiments like, “Wow, I can barely be kind to the people I care about most, how can I be good to others?

That’s where the grace comes in. The Christian faith teaches different types of grace (natural, prevenient, saving, etc.) and it’s also used as a “catch-all” idea describing the moment that God acts on our behalf to do something either beyond our natural capacities or to do something we want to do but for one reason or another we can’t so we seek God’s help (grace) in helping us do.

I am one that can fill many moments of the day dwelling on past hurts, angry moments and unwelcomed future possibilities. I’m told this is normal and this is tragic yet oddly comforting in a sense. I suppose if I were to ever make a list of people I’d rather not meet or meet again, it would include people like Fred Phelps, those who traffic and molest, etc. It may even include a few other names of people I’ve tangled with. In some sense, it troubles me that I could come up with a list. I find it un-Christian and again, reminds me of my need for grace.

And this is why the concept of grace is so important to me. It’s not just a matter of asking for enough to grace to forgive past transgressions, nor is it a matter of wishing the best for someone that you formally hoped otherwise for. Grace is needed for these moments and for those moments that will attack and drain on the journey of life.  Grace strengthens, grace frees, grace allows you to draw nearer to God and others.  It’s best not to think of it as life-insurance – there in case you need it. But rather it’s part of the ever-unfolding gift from a loving God that offers more than we can imagine.

This week we lit the “Joy Candle.”


  1. I love reading your posts, Pastor Tim.

    And this time….you’ve met Fred Phelps? The grace to be good and even congenial to a man like that, so full of hate, well thats impressive indeed. I try to be as open-minded as possible, listening to all people and trying to understand where they are coming from, but a hatemonger like that, who so actively and apologetically causes so much pain to people he doesn’t even know? That is truly grace.

  2. Hey Ryan, thanks I appreciate that.

    I have not met Phelps, poorly worded sentence there – sorry about that. Every so often I do wonder what I would say to him. I can be spiteful and I realize he’s likely been yelled at his entire life so I doubt a lecture from me would be helpful. I think the key is to exercise grace and love should that day come which almost did when his crew came to boycott a school play 15 miles away from my previous church. I was not able to visit the scene due to prior obligations.

    But just to clarify, responding with love and grace does not mean skirting the issues or being tolerant of such terrible behavior. I am very convinced that you can rebuke and confront in a loving manner, especially with God’s grace.

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