The Gift: Third Candle (Day Thirteen)

“Lift up your hearts.”

“We lift them to the Lord.”

“Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.”

“It is right to give our thanks and praise.”

Standing, they face the front of the church where three Advent candles flicker in their wreath beside the two still unlit ones. The voices rise around them. Peter puts his hands in his pockets. Alana’s voice sounds louder than usual.

“All glory and honour be yours always and everywhere, mighty Creator, everliving God…”

Peter’s mind processes the words at the same time as he takes in the surrounding room. It is, on the face of it, a traditional church building: lead-light windows containing pictures of saints and Bible stories, carved wooden pulpit and (unused) choir stalls; in almost every way like the small-town Anglican churches where he spent his childhood and which they would visit sporadically throughout their first few years of marriage. The church where they were married looked like this. The church where Alana’s niece was baptised looked like it too. But there are differences: the data projector replacing prayer books; the lower age of the congregation; the casual dress of the minister; the confident tone with which the liturgy is proclaimed…

“We give you thanks and praise for our Saviour Jesus Christ, who by the power of your Spirit was born of Mary and lived as one of us…”

He looks at Alana; she turns her face slightly towards him, catching him in the corner of her eye and smiling briefly.

“By his death on the cross and rising to new life, he offered the one true sacrifice for sin and obtained an eternal deliverance for his people…”

Thankyou, she had said, after they had come home last week from the evening church service. I’m really glad we went. I think it was good for us to go.

He hadn’t known what to say, and so he had said, Yes, it was good to go.

I feel a lot more hopeful, she had said. I prayed about it, and I think it’s going to be okay.

Of course it is, he had said, and kissed her. It’s going to be fine.

“Therefore with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we proclaim your great and glorious name, for ever praising you and saying…”

I read the story of Hannah again, she had said. God can answer our prayers. He knows how much we want this.

Yes, he had said, yes, he does.

“Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.”

The floorboards are wooden, Peter notices, and there is no carpet. He gazes at the floorboards and breathes.

Go to Day Fourteen

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