We arrived at church early and picked up our candles for later in the Christmas Eve service. I sat and looked around. Kids scattered the worship center, found the on switch and happily waved their candles. Most the adults set their lights aside, aware of the routine. They’d leave their candles off until instructed to turn them on, predictably toward the end of the service.
The root of the timing likely goes back to when real candlesticks were used. Waiting until the end of the service assured the wax didn’t have much time to drip, although I have memories of watching those drips sneak past the flimsy cardboard drip guard. I remember close calls of mesmerized littles nearly catching their long hair on fire—or the clothes of the people in the next pew. But the cooperation of tipping each candle toward the next to light one after another seemed magical. Despite the fire concerns, I’m a little jealous of those who still get to enjoy the flickering candlelight. But back to the candlelight of today…
I understand the tradition. I understand the impact of all turning our lights on at once. I understand the unity and solemnity. I can appreciate the gesture, but as I sat and watched those around me on Christmas Eve—some enthusiastically waving around their lights and others obediently setting them aside until cued—I reflected on how each of us handles our light.
It’s not really our light. Jesus is the Light. And what we do with the light he gives us reflects what we do with him. Do we keep it to ourselves? Do we annoy others with it? Do we help others with it? Do we do what others expect us to do with it? Do we do what we want to do with it? Do we use it based on our own understanding? Do we rely on God to let us know the when, how, and why of shining our light?
Let’s be mesmerized, curious, and bold like children. Let’s be faithful, disciplined, and amazed as adults. We might not always understand the wait or the urgency, the brightness or darkness, the solitude or community. He will always give us the light we need.
I am grateful.