Every evening for 28 nights, Special Operations soldiers and others squeezed into the office of CRC army chaplain Capt. Peter Hofman in Afghanistan.
Battles went on outside in Afghan towns and villages, but in the office warfare was set aside for a time. Voices were hushed. Those gathered there turned out the lights and took turns lighting the specially designed Advent of Freedom candle.
“The Advent of Freedom candle was a simple reminder of the Advent wreaths many of us may be familiar with during Christmas celebrations of the past,” says Hofman. This candle was decorated in ways that reflected aspects of the mission and approach of Special Operations personnel. First, there was the Special Forces shield emblem in the foreground of the candle, says Hofman.
From there, a star was placed in the background, serving as a reminder of the star of Bethlehem “that pointed the way to the Christ-child, symbolizing the hope, expectation, and celebration we feel in our hearts as we reflect on the birth of Jesus,” says Hofman.
Framing the star was the shape of the cross.
The candle itself was a symbol of God’s Spirit, shining through the Special Operations shield, illuminating the cross and star “and reminding us of the Spirit that lives in and shines through each one of us,” says Hofman.
Nicholas V. Kroeze, Hofman’s father-in-law, designed and created this Advent piece and included this dedication: “To the many men and women whom we honor, encourage, and support in their service to our country. . . .”
“The candlelight and the Spirit it represents thus unite the foreground and background symbols, affirming the common cause of bringing freedom where there is captivity and bringing light where there is darkness,” says Kroeze.
Kroeze also prepared devotionals for the Advent gatherings. After lighting the Advent of Freedom candle, someone would read a passage of Scripture followed by one of Kroeze’s devotionals.
“It was a wonderful time of reflection. They reflected not only on Christ’s mission on earth to bring liberty to those held captive by sin but on our own [mission] to liberate the Afghan people from the oppression of the Taliban,” says Hofman.