When I found this little ceramic Christmas tree from the 70’s — that had no star?

Just a table-top tree with translucent multi-colored bulbs, up on the upper shelf of a piled and tilting thrift store?

Yeah, I rescued a sting of childhood memories and brought that chipped star-less tree home.

Because it’s December the 1st, and the hype ends now, like someone, thank God Almighty, duct-taped all the grating noise and made a sacred space of sane stillness.

These are loud and wounding days of right reckoning. News streams are a torrent of pain. A lady yells at me on the way home with this blister of 40 tongue-lashings.

And I’m telling you: When we dash one person’s light — we dash a world of light, because we tend to pass on our pain, instead of passing the peace.

Maybe when we are most disillusioned with each other, is when most need to be blaze illumination for each other.







I sit that little tree out in the stilled dark of the front porch, set it up in an urn, like it’s a live tree, and plug in that way-too-long orange extension cord, and there it is: memories live on.

For about all of my first twenty years, when you drove up Highway 45 this time of year, turned down the Grafton Road and headed toward Centerton, you’d see my grandma’s little ceramic Christmas tree sitting out in the front bay window of their 1950’s ranch, that ceramic, multi-coloured tree lit like light can poke holes straight through the story of the dark.

Light’s poking holes through the dark’s story everywhere — and there are Light Pokers everywhere we turn: Women telling the truth, igniting with freedom. Men standing for justice, blazing down stories that must stop.

Families welcoming in the orphan, the stranger, the refugee. Whole communities doing hard and holy and right things, exploding into supernovas right in the night of things, and starting to changing the story of everything.

Light Pokers, all of us.

It’s the Light Pokers — poking holes in the dark, poking holes in the dark’s story —- who stir up a flame to draw people to the passion of the Christ.

This is Advent.

This is about the coming of Christ, this is about the coming of the Light of the Kingdom of God.

Advent is a whole lot more than waiting for Christmas, Advent is a whole lot more than preparing for Christmas —- Advent is ultimately about preparing the way for the Light of Christ in a world dying for light.

Advent is a whole lot more than passively waiting for the King — it’s about participating in the work of the Kingdom of God.

The First Advent of Christ began the reconciliation of all things — and that now begs our participation.

And the Second Advent will be the consummation of all things — and that now begs our anticipation.

Advent is about the practice of ardent participation in the Kingdom of God — and the ardent anticipation of the King.

Practicing participation and anticipation is how we practice Advent.

The question Advent is really asking is: How can we blaze with ardent participation in the reconciliation of all things —— and the ardent anticipation of the Lord in all things?

There’s a deep comfort and warmth in it: The practice of Advent is participating in the ancient expectancy of the Messiah — and ardently expecting Him again.

A house full of little trees light up and it’s true: This is the season where the nights are longest. And this is the season — to look for the light. This is a season to look for the light, to be the light, to be a Light Poker, poking holes in the dark and stoking an ardent flame of light — and to actually: live light.

This season where there are no heavy burdens, no crushing pressures, no more things or stuff or lists to carry. Love always lightens us.

And the Light is coming, and He is grace, and His grace is light — and always:

Grace is weightless.

Be still on the first day of December and you can hear it, can’t you? If you listen with the inner ear of your soul? The hype ends and the hush enters in. Less hype, more holy. 

The chaos carnival can keep on spinning its crazy —and you can wave your sweet adios and get off the whole spun spectacle and breathe in the hush of the holy hinterlands with the people who are brilliant — the ones who are light.

The brilliant are always the ones who simply live like light.

The lovers and Givers and Gifters, the advocates, the servers, the foot-washers and the cup-of-cold-water-bringers and the Great Commissioners, the justice warriors and the peacemakers and the light-igniters, the cruciform and the Christ-followers and the Gospel-incarnaters and the Advent keepers and participators and anticipators.

The brilliant are always the ones who simply live like light.

The Littlest One here, she stands at the window, looking out at that little thrifted and redeemed ceramic tree like my old Grandma Ruth’s, and I pray this one too will be a Light Poker, poking holes in the dark’s story and stoking ardent faith flames, that she will live out a real advent: faithful participation in the Kingdom and fervent anticipation of the King.

She points out at the little ceramic tree: “It needs a STAR, Mama — a STAR!”














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And before I tuck her in for the night, we open up The Wonder of the Greatest Gift — and there it is — she has a tree, her very own tree, right in her lap.

And we read December 1st’s reading — and she holds in her hands the story of her family tree, the family tree of Jesus, the grafted-in family tree of the people of God — and her eyes light, and she opens the first of those 25 Advent flaps, and hangs the first Advent ornament, and I can’t help blink it back in all this light.

“Can I, Mama?” She looks up. “Can I take out the star, Mama?” And I nod and she cups the star in her hand and beams.

And I don’t notice it until I tuck the covers in underneath her chin, stroke her hair back, brush one last kiss on the top of her head: she’s fallen asleep holding the star in her hand.

The Girl’s becoming a little Light Poker.

The Girl’s sleeping with Light. The Girl’s becoming Light. All His light.

Now is the season to be a star that shatters the dark.

You see it everywhere you turn these days of Advent:

What breaks any dark

is the courage of just one star.



  1. Advent is here! And we all get to begin: The Wonder of the Greatest Gift (pop-up edition with your own 14 inch tree, 25 days of readings, 25 day advent flap calendar, hiding all 25 Biblically inspired ornaments! For any age) or The Greatest Gift (adult edition)  and Unwrapping the Greatest Gift (family read aloud edition) — (and no matter what edition you read from, you can use the pop-up tree of The Wonder of the Greatest Gift  for your tree, 25 day advent calendar and all 25 Biblically inspired ornaments!)

2. The Whole “Night Before Advent” Kit is free for you right here [just scroll over the photo, and then click on download]

3. The Free Printable Advent Calendar is here for you in red, or in snow blue or chalkboard black [just scroll over the photo that pops up, and then click on download]

4. And the printable bookmark of the poem: “The Night Before Advent”

5.  Click over to The Greatest Christmas and Check out our whole library of free printable ornaments, cards, gift tags, gifts boxes, Sticky Notes for Your Soul, Advent Calendars and more — our gift to you for The Greatest Christmas