Preaching Articles

We are officially over two weeks into Advent–that season of waiting and preparing our hearts to enter into the time of Christmas celebration. The entire church year begins with this season of waiting. Every 11 months, we get one month of waiting. It’s an interesting rhythm which should affect our cadence of busyness and distraction.

Keeping Vigil

A word that has captured my attention for a while is the word “vigil.” It’s a focused time of being awake and alert. In times gone by, people would keep vigil for ill friends by staying up with the family; keep vigil with a pregnant friend who was waiting to deliver her child; keep vigil in the hospital as you waited on further word from the doctor about a loved one who was ill.

We don’t like waiting. We don’t like vigils. We are consumed in a cult of speed and a flurry of activity.

Currently, I have two very sick friends. Both have cancer. For both the prospect and prognosis is not good for healing. I find myself keeping a private vigil for them in my heart. They are most always on my minds as are there wives and children. I’m concerned. The vigil I keep for them morphs into prayer and releasing them to the hands of God. Keeping vigil is something I’m learning about and having two sons in Iraq has helped me enter a vigil time of life where everything it seems was put on hold.

Lighting a Candle

One of the gifts of Advent is the simple gift of getting a candle and practicing lighting it and sitting in the illuminating glow of beauty and a bit of warmth. That single act alone will help you enter the vigil a bit more. The simple act of even looking for the right candle to do it, can help you focus on the advent of waiting; of preparing your heart; of responding to an inner tug that something is amiss in your world and you want and need to stop. Reflect on what is bothering you and then simply move out in the light of the candle.

OK. For some of us, it will be simply putting the computer aside and lighting the candle of advent and turning down the music or turning off the TV and sitting for a moment in vigil…. sitting with our self and sitting with our God and allowing the quiet of the moment to assuage our fears of all the things we have not yet gotten done.

When we light the Advent candle, we really are doing a very basic thing. We are practicing the sovereignty of God. By that I mean, we are simply keeping vigil, waiting and realizing that the world is not on our shoulders.  We realize a very important fact- Life is not up to me. It never was and never should be.

Ready to light the Advent candle now? I think so.



Stephen W. Smith and his wife Gwen are the Co-Founders of a Christian ministry called, Potter’s Inn.  

Steve and Gwen have been married since 1980 and spent 32 years ministering together to the hearts of people around the world. Steve has pastored churches in Kentucky, North Carolina and the Netherlands. 

Currently, Steve and Gwen lead retreats throughout the world for leaders in the marketplace as well as ministry. A focus for Steve and Gwen is their work with individuals and couples in “Soul Care Intensives”–a private retreat with leaders.

Steve and Gwen have four adult sons and two daughters through their son’s marriages. Soon to be three!


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