Tonight, we’ll resume our yearly Advent tradition and light the first candle on our family Advent Wreath. Anna has asked to help lead the prayers this year, and I think she’s ready.
I will begin as always by saying my favorite Advent candle-lighting prayer, which is also the Collect for the First Sunday of Advent in the Episcopal Church (my former church) …
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Then we’ll light the first candle, and she’ll read the prayer for the First Sunday of Advent …
All-powerful God, increase our strength of will for doing good that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming and call us to his side in the Kingdom of Heaven, where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God forever and ever. Amen.
Some of you may recognize this as the old translation of the Collect for the First Sunday of Advent, that was superseded by an updated translation in 2011. While the new version is more accurate, and at times more eloquent, this is the one from my copy of A Prayer Book of Catholic Devotions that we’ve used since Anna was a baby. It will also be easier for her to read.
Then we’ll read the Gospel for this Sunday, and say the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary to conclude our prayers.
“How full is your bucket?” This is the question asked by a best-selling book of the same name. It uses a metaphor of a bucket and a ladle to describe how selfish acts diminish the positive outlook of other people (symbolized by water in a bucket), and how self-giving acts replenish not just other people’s buckets, but our own as well.
It’s really a meditation on the infinite abundance of love.
We read the kids’ version of this story to Anna. She picked up on the metaphor right away, and I picked up on a couple of other points that the authors might have missed.
First, that depression is like a hole in your bucket. I know that when I got depressed none of the people or things that normally brought me joy could lift me out of the darkness. There’s a hole in the bucket, and—just like the song—any attempt on my part to patch that hole is futile. That’s why people who suffer from depression need to get help. You can’t will yourself to get better anymore than you can will away an infection or a major injury. Depression is not a lack of faith, in either God or in oneself, it’s a disease.
Second, that God has an infinite bucket filled with infinite water that never runs out. This is what Jesus told the woman at the well—”whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)
God is love; a spring of living water that never runs out. And he fills us to overflowing.
When I wrote this post last Friday, I had no idea how tragically relevant it would become. If you’re struggling with depression and especially if you’ve thought of hurting yourself in any way, please seek help. 1-800-273-TALK.