The Meaning of Advent

December 18, 2015 at 8:30 AM

The Meaning of Advent

Advent is a time when we are called to be Still. It is a time of reflecting on the promise of Hope and new Life. It is a time of waiting and preparing for the birth of Jesus when we are called to evaluate our own lives and our journey with God.  Often during Advent, we are pulled in many directions; shopping for gifts, preparing our homes for christmas, getting distracted by the commercialism of the holiday season. This is far from the stillness and reflection we are called to be present to as Christians. It is important for us to make conscious decisions to spend quiet time with God.

For the past three years, Fontbonne Academy’s art classes have partnered with Hopeful Connections, a nonprofit whose mission is to connect families to the support in Massachusetts to help them cope with the loss of a baby, during the advent season. The art students, as part of their outreach and service, volunteer to hand paint candle votives for families who have suffered the loss of a child for Hopeful Connections’ “I Live in Your Light” candle project. These artists volunteer their time to paint these candles for the families. This is a real love in action service project.

This year, Hopeful Connections’ held an “I Live in Your LIght” Celebration of Remembrance event on December 6, 2015 where families and friends gathered to remember the children gone too soon. Families who requested candles were invited to the event. Their child’s candle was lit and their name spoken out loud. Over 80 candles were lit to honor these children. The candles shone brightly filling our foyer with their light and love. Members of the Fontbonne Academy student body and Jazz choir joined to share their gift of voice to add meaning and reflection to the event. The student’s were remarkable and their willingness to volunteer to share their time and talents was inspiring and a true moment of Christmas.

As the founder of Hopeful Connections, I have spent time reflecting on this event. My insights are unique because I am looking at it as both an Administrator/Educator at Fontbonne Academy as well as President of a non profit and bereaved mother. The education of our students about pregnancy loss, about grief, about the courage to love was not the initial intent of the candle project. It has been an invaluable lesson that has come from this project. The artists were called during their busy days to stop, to pause, to paint a candle and share their kindness and love. They were offered this opportunity to love as Advent directs us; to be thoughtful to our neighbors, to answer the call to serve.  

During the Remembrance evening, the parents of these babies were given an opportunity to pause, to reflect, to be surrounded by a community of love. They were comforted and given a space to think, to feel, to share and to reflect on the hope and light their children brought to their lives. This was a true Advent moment where the love of God was fully present in each and every person in attendance. It was a joyous gift to experience the support and compassion of so many people during a time in our world where it is often hard to find.

This is the meaning of Advent for me - to see God’s work and the promise of love light a room.

I am so grateful for all the families who shared their children with us these past three years through the candle project. Your children are very much alive and present in this world. Part of the reason we started Hopeful Connections was because I work with all girls everyday who unfortunately will be affected by pregnancy loss in one way or another in their life. Thank you for sharing your children and thus your story with us. You have helped a young girl start the conversation about pregnancy loss. You have allowed them to be more comfortable talking about this in their future so they never feel they can’t speak about their losses or remember their babies. You have given them this permission. You have taught them about courage.

 I hope you each have a moment this holiday season to experience the presence of God’s love so vividly in your life.