I’m behind in posting stuff from Christmas. Our Christmas Eve services are a longstanding tradition, with candlelight, a handbell choir, many guests and kids in the room, a loud, boisterous, quiet, reflective gathering of family, friends, Friends, and strangers. (Yes, there are many contradictions in the last sentence).
This year, Lecia Retter, our children’s pastor, re-told the Christmas story and had help from kids who brought up pieces of a creche at the appropriate moments in the story. Lecia noticed the different ways that the placement of the figures in each service spoke to her, particularly the one where one child put Mary far away from baby Jesus and sort of turned away from him. Sometimes, Lecia said, we can love Jesus and really not quite face who he is or what he is doing in our lives.
Before we each lit candles, I shared the following words:
What do we use candles for? In what situations, what events, are we likely to light a candle? [ASK]
Candlelight is very conducive to setting a mood. What’s interesting from the examples we’ve given are all the different moods it can convey.
- On a birthday cake, a candle represents celebration and joy.
- A candle lit dinner signifies intimacy and warmth.
- I’ve seen protestors light candles, in a gesture of quiet defiance against injustice.
- A candle lit when the power goes out gives courage to light our way when other lights have failed.
In the bible, in the book of John, it says this about Jesus:
“In him was life, and that life was the light of the world. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.”
Jesus called himself the light of the world, and it’s a wonderful picture. Jesus, like light, specifically like candlelight, comes into our world in such a variety of ways and creates such a wide range of emotions. This candlelight service, year after year, is a tradition that many of us love. What I love is the chance to ask why we do the traditions we do. What is it we are doing as we light a candle?
There isn’t one specific right answer to that question…but I hope that each one of us will make a choice right now about why we are lighting the candle we hold in our hands.
Tonight, perhaps you want to picture the candle you hold on a giant birthday cake, a birthday cake which celebrates and honors the guest of honor, Jesus. With all the joy and smiles and celebration of a birthday party, welcome the birth of Jesus Christ!
Perhaps God has always felt distant and far away from you. You could light this candle with a prayer, a longing, a hope that Jesus will shower you with the warmth and intimacy you would feel sharing a candlelight dinner with just him.
Perhaps the unrest and injustice in our world is so much at the surface of your soul that you have trouble not bursting out in anger or drowning in despair. Light this candle in defiant hope, that Jesus, the light of the world cannot be overcome by any darkness we humans create.
Or perhaps your way ahead is not very clear right now; you’re facing a job change or a move or some other shift in your life that leaves you uncertain. Light this candle as a confident act of hope, asking Jesus to light the path ahead of you.
What is it you are doing as you light this candle tonight?
- May this act of lighting candles bring honor to Jesus, who on a silent night long ago entered our world and our frame of reference so that we would not be alone in the dark.
- May our caring for the light of these candles remind us of the need to pay attention to what God is doing in our lives each and every day of the year.
- May the ease with which we share the candle light with our neighbors remind us that Jesus lives to be shared with everyone!
- And, may the light that will soon illuminate this entire room remind us that however dark it seems in our world, however dark it seems in our lives, there is NO darkness great enough to overcome God’s supreme and ultimate light, Jesus Christ.