I’ve gotten in the habit of seeking out popular music that can double as Advent hymns. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Long as I Can See the Light” is one on heavy rotation in my home in these Advent days. Recall the beginning lyrics:

Put a candle in the window,
cause I feel I’ve gotta move.
Though I’m goin’, goin’,
I’ll be coming home soon.
Long as I can see the light.

I love driving around during the weeks before Christmas to look at home decorations, and especially love the houses with simple candles in the windows. When we were kids, my brothers and I took great joy in hauling out the electric candles my parents put in the windows facing the street. Our house on Bancroft had many windows, and since we were on a corner lot on a main thoroughfare in Toledo, Ohio, we had tons of cars passing by day and night.

The lit candles in every window not only looked beautiful, they made the cold December air feel a little bit warm. Alive. They made the house feel alive.

I can imagine early journeyers, long before cars, going through the woods from here to there, getting too tired to continue for the night. When they came upon a house, a light in a window was a signal they could knock on the door to receive a bed and maybe a meal. A welcome sight for weary travelers who, in the dark of night, had a hard time finding their way.

Advent is that season where we do the things necessary to remind ourselves that the Light is on the way, even in the dark dead of winter. We put candles in the windows. We plant trees in the middle of our living rooms, creating this absurd scene where we pretend something so lush and green can grow inside. We remind one another that we are alive even as half of the world is experiencing winter’s barrenness.

Advent is a housewarming as opposed to Lent’s housecleaning. Both are important for the spiritual life. Sometimes our faith is on the move, wandering through some darkness. So we need to rely on this Advent practice of lighting candles, holding onto the hope that fresh greens can sprout in the stump of wandering faith, singing songs to carry us through the times when it seems like there’s no place to lay our spiritual heads.

Put a candle in the window for your spirit and for all the wandering faithful out there. The Light is on the way, and home can be found there, though it’s hard to find our way in the dark sometimes. But we can always find our way back to our spiritual home, back to the manger, back to the Christ, as long as we can see the light.

Tim Brown
Tim Brown is a pastor, writer, and ELCA director for congregational stewardship.

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