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The Case of The Missing Advent Candles (without pictures)

December 1, 2015

NOTE: This is actually the second of a two-part series. The Mystery of the Missing Advent Wreath, i.e., my blog from yesterday, is part one. If you’re haven’t read it yet, or if you have read it but find you might need a refresher,  please do so first. You’ll find it by scrolling down; it’s the next entry under this one. As always, Thank You for reading and I welcome your comments. — Joe.

Three days ago.

It was still dark.

It was still a dark and wintry Saturday night.

But suddenly the darkness was gone.

I was in the front office of the church I serve as a pastor. I had flipped the light switch. It wasn’t dark anymore.

“Whatever you’re looking for,” a friend had said long ago, “it’s always in the last place you look. Get it? It’s a joke. It’s always in the last place you look. Because you found it. So you stop looking. Abe Lincoln said that. Or somebody else famous did.”

Abe Lincoln wasn’t there. Neither was anybody else famous.

But I was sure the candles, the right candles, the Advent Wreath Candles, were.

But where?

Not in the wall of shelves behind five closet doors. Not in the deep cabinets behind six sliding doors underneath bookshelves.

There was another room. The Copier Room. The Conference Room. The Small Group Resource Room. One room. One room with three names. It’s how we do things in churches.

More deep cabinets behind four more sliding doors.


There it was. Behind sliding door number three.

Or, sliding door number eight. If you count the ones in the front office. Let’s do. Makes this sound like more of a bold, daring Search and Rescue Op.

There they were. There were the right boxes. I’d finally found…[cue happy music]…the missing Advent Wreath Candles.

How could I be so certain? The boxes were marked “Advent Wreath Candles.”

I’d solved The Case of The Missing Advent Candles.

But my joy…[stop happy music]…would soon end.

Everything wasn’t like it looked.

Patty was in the sanctuary. Dusting off The Advent Wreath. I handed her a box. She opened one.

Large purple candle.

I opened another box Another large purple candle.

Third box, third large purple candle.

Last box. Large pink candle.

The set was complete. Or was it?

Something was wrong. Not right. Wrong.

One of the large purple candles wasn’t as heavy as the others.

Patty pointed out that they weren’t candles at all. They were hollow tubes. Candles fit inside. Springs at the bottom pushed the candles up as they burned down.

To the untrained eye all four candles would look full and solid. But they wouldn’t be.

By Christmas, the candles themselves would be different lengths. One would have been lighted and burning at each worship service for four weeks. One for three weeks. One for two weeks. And one, only for one.


But it wouldn’t work this year. Because something was wrong.

One of the large purple candle covers wasn’t as heavy as the others.

We looked. The candle inside was all but gone. Burnt up, burnt down. Barely enough wax to hold the wick.

I’d seen this before. Great looks on the outside, but empty on the inside.

I’d known people like that.

I can be like that myself.

“You’re hopeless,” Jesus says. “You burnish the surface of your cups and bowls so they sparkle in the sun, while the insides are maggoty with your greed and gluttony.

“Scour the insides, and then the gleaming surface will mean something,” he goes on.

Takes a breath.

 “You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh,” Jesus says.

Then pounds in the last nail.

“People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds.”

That’s what Jesus says. In Matthew 23. Verses 23-28.

And that’s when it hit me. The Case of The Missing Advent Candles wasn’t about candles.

It was about what Advent’s about. Getting ready.

We say it every time we’re at his table: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.”

Advent is a reminder. We need to get ready. He’s coming back.

Don’t want to be found in the same shape as that empty candle cover.

Serious Question: what are we filled with today?








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  1. and so we light the full candle holder while we wait to put in a refill.


    • Brilliant! (sorry, no pun intended, honestly) Sadly, quite accurate, Ben. And that action quickly leads to destruction.


  2. Bill and Jan Prewitt permalink

    Anxious for more tomorrow!!!! Great reading….


  3. JAN: thank you, very much


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