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Years ago the prophet Isaiah proclaimed the following:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light… (Isaiah 9:2)
Never does our sanctuary look more beautiful than during the season of Advent and especially today on Christmas Eve. Those who have attended our Lovefeast service before know in just a few moments our sanctuary will be filled with light from candles like these. In a Christmas sermon a preacher once asked the following about candles: “Why is it that we light candles at Christmas and take joy in their splendor? The preacher answered this question by saying the following, “The lights that we kindle are a symbol of the light of the world.” It could be argued that this “light in the world” is needed now more than ever. Some people say we live in a dark world. Darkness can take on a variety of forms like natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes, terrorist attacks far too many to identify individually since last Christmas Eve. Other forms of darkness might include illness, unemployment, homelessness, hunger, prejudice, and grief. During this season of celebration we need to be mindful that there are others who are hurting. In remembering these people, we are called to share the light of Christ in our community. Sharing this light means we must practice a spirit of giving.
Speaking of giving, long ago, there ruled in Persia a wise and good king. He loved his people. He wanted to know how they lived. He wanted to know about their hardships in life. Often he dressed in the clothes of a beggar, and went to the homes of the poor. No one that he visited thought that he was his or her actual ruler and king. One time he visited a very poor man who lived in a cellar. He ate the food the poor man ate. He spoke cheerful, kind words to him. Then he left. Later he visited the poor man again and disclosed his identity by saying, “I am your king!” The king thought the man would surely ask for some gift or favor, but he didn’t. Instead he said, “You left your palace and your glory to visit me in this dark, dreary place. You ate the food I ate. You brought gladness to my heart! To others you have given your rich gifts. To me you have given yourself!” Likewise, our king of glory, the Lord Jesus Christ, gave himself to us.
Today we gather together knowing that there is an everlasting light available to each of us in Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said that he was the light of the world that whoever follows him will never walk in darkness but have the light of life. The first Christmas candles were given out at a Moravian children’s service on Christmas Eve, 1747. Bishop John de Watteville held the first service for children. As he told them the Christmas story, he reminded them of what Jesus had done for the love of them, and he lighted candles with red bands distributed to help them remember that Jesus wanted to spark a flame in each of their hearts. (Source: Lee Shields Butterfield, December 1959 article, The Moravian Magazine)
For us, these candles we receive will hopefully make us think about something other than just ourselves. When we hold these candles many of us might think of Christ, the Light of the World. We might think of God’s word through Scripture or God’s actions through His Church that inspire us to love and serve others. Our candles are made from beeswax that symbolize the purity of Jesus. We Moravians like to consider ourselves to be pretty practical people thus the red trimmed paper will help to keep wax off our hands. I have always found the red paper around our candle to be a special symbol to me and to others. It is a reminder that as we celebrate the birth of Jesus tomorrow, we must always remember that his earthly journey many years later took him to the Cross.
Remembering the words from John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
Together let us allow the light of Christ to shine brightly through our lives this day and always!
The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr.
December 24, 2017