December 25, 2014 Midnight
Margaret Parish, Bel Air
Tonight I am picturing in my mind one of those jarred Yankee Candles.
I can almost smell the scent of Balsam and Cedar, or, at this time of year, Christmas Cookie Dough. Many of us use lighted candles like these in our homes to create a warm, cozy feeling.
Restaurants often use them to create an atmosphere for fine dining. On news reports, we sometimes see crowds of people holding them as they remember a loved one who has died or been killed.
Advent Wreath Candles
Here in church we also use candles and we use them for a purpose. For example, during the four weeks of Advent that just ended, we had a wreath here with four candles.
Three of these candles were purple and one was rose or pink. And those Advent candles – I believe, at least for me – they spoke to something rather deep in our human spirit.
They expressed my sense that things can be better and especially I need to keep growing spiritually. They also expressed my trust that this can happen if I allow God to come and permeate more and more who I am as a person.
Christmas Wreath Candles
Those Advent candles have now been replaced by these white candles with a gold banding.
I believe that these candles express, above all else, our faith in Emmanuel – a name which means God-is-with-us. They express our faith that through the birth of Jesus, God is with us throughout our entire journey on this earth.
The light of these candles expresses our faith in the light of Jesus – that he shows us the way to relate to one another and to God. And the warmth that they give expresses our hope in the One who teaches us that warm, thoughtful words and actions are the way to dispel darkness.
In the long run, I see these candles saying that Emmanuel will fulfill our absolutely deepest hope. He will lead us to that heavenly light and warmth that, deep down, we all seek.
We as Candles
Now there is one more important thing about the candles.
Eventually, these, like any candles, will burn out. The wax and wick will be fully consumed and exhausted.
Spiritually, this means that we who are here tonight need to catch this fire. Because of this special, holy night, we are to accept the light and warmth of Christ into our lives and then bring it to those around us, especially those who are experiencing darkness and cold.
So, for example, we make sure to invite for dinner a family member who is grieving the death of a spouse. We phone or text a friend who is suffering from a painful divorce.
We affirm a young adult who just feels that she or he does not belong. Maybe we bought a set of towels for a family or a video game for a kid whose name was hanging on the parish Giving Tree.
Maybe we take the first step in reaching out to someone after years of not speaking. These are human, in a sense, everyday ways of sharing the light and warmth of Christ.
So in a way, the idea is so simple.
We are to be like candles. We are to be and give light and warmth.
That’s how our deepest desires and hopes really get fulfilled. And for this to happen, we just have to get the fire and keep getting the fire from the One who came into this world on that holy night in Bethlehem.