By Marieanne Rose

As I think back, it all started so innocently. I was out shopping at the local Christian bookstore in Traverse City and noticed a display spotlighting a new family devotional idea. The year was 1974 and Advent Wreaths were relatively unknown…at least our Lutheran Church certainly didn’t have one at that time…in fact, I had never heard of such a thing.

The wreath was constructed of black wrought iron. The “kit” included the wreath, one pink and three purple candles (I thought that was rather odd), and a devotional booklet with devotions for every day in Advent. Hmmm – it seemed like a good idea. So, I made an executive decision. I bought it as an investment in the spiritual growth of our family. Total cost…$4.95 (It was 1974, after all!)

On that first Advent evening, our boys were curious about the new dining room table “decoration” with the odd colored candles. And after the meal, we gave our oldest son the honor of lighting the first candle while Karl read our devotion. Then began some time for open prayer.

We were trying to help our children pray publicly and so – included in our prayer time – there was a time for all of us to “practice”. Our custom was that prayer time would start with the youngest member of the family praying whatever was on his heart…followed by each sibling, in order of his age. Mommy would then take a turn and we would end with Daddy’s prayer. At this point, I should probably mention that Karl is especially gifted with amazing powers of concentration and sometimes his prayers could get a bit lengthy.

Matt was our youngest (by six minutes) and he started off with a short prayer…followed by his twin brother, Chris. Marty added his thoughts next, and lastly we heard from our oldest, Mike. By the time I started praying, our youngest was starting to get restless. I heard him squirming in his chair and I saw him pick up his paper napkin. (Yes, I know we were praying, but when you have four boys, it’s never wise to completely close your eyes…especially if there is a candle burning!) I finished praying and Dad started approaching God’s throne.

So, with squinty eyes, I saw Matt reach over with his paper napkin and float it over the flame. I was just about to snatch the napkin from his hand when he hopped off his chair and headed for the kitchen. “Ah, what a good boy,” I thought, “he’s going to toss it in the sink.” Sure enough, he returned a few seconds later minus the flaming napkin. I breathed easier and centered in on Karl’s prayer.

I don’t know how long it took, but at some point I heard a loud “CRACKLE” sound. My eyes flew open and rested on the “Laughing Jesus” picture on the wall facing me. Reflected in the glass I saw “ORANGE” flames. I slid out of my chair and quickly tiptoed around the hutch. Karl was still praying, by the way.

Yup – you guessed it – Matt hadn’t thrown the burning napkin in the sink but had deposited it nicely in the waste basket and I was standing in front of a plastic waste receptacle with flames almost licking the ceiling. I gingerly picked up the basket – carried it over to the back door –  opened it and threw it as quickly as I could onto a two-foot deep snow bank just outside our door.

Remember – this was Traverse City where snow usually starts accumulating in October. Beginning to breathe a lot slower now, I moved as quietly as I could back to the table where –amazingly – Karl was still praying – and our four sons sat with heads bowed and eyes closed. They all looked positively saintly! I slid into my chair, bowed my head, folded my hands, and waited for Karl to finish.

At the end of the prayer, Daddy looked up and spoke softly, “While I was praying, someone got out of their chair.” My hand flew up to my mouth, so I wouldn’t laugh out loud and the kids were totally silent…no one ratted out his brother. My goodness, what could ever have happened during an Advent Devotion to cause someone to get out of their chair?

Yes – this story is absolutely true! Who could make up something like this? Share a story from your Advent Devotion experience! Find our most recent Advent Devotion to do with your family!