Let there be light

Light. The presence of light is highly visible during the holiday season. We string lights from our roofs, hang them on our indoor trees, place them in our windows in the form of representative candles, and light actual candles in our Advent wreaths and Hanukkah menorahs.

The Christmas story tells us that God placed a special light in the sky the night Jesus was born, commonly referred to as the star of Bethlehem, to guide the Magi to the Christ child. It was unlike any other star ever known.

In the bleakness of winter, in the days of shortened daylight hours, we wish for more light. During times of illness, trouble, or grief we may feel as though a heavy blanket of darkness has been cast over us. No light makes its way through to us. We wait for, we long for, light.

Light is the perfect emblem for both Advent and Christmas. We wait for the Light of the World to be born during the darkest time of the year in the Northern hemisphere. The four Advent candles (in the Episcopal view) represent hope, love, joy, and peace. We don’t light them all at once; rather, one candle is lit each week to remind us that Advent is a time of waiting.

The Jewish menorah represents the candelabra that lit the Temple in ancient Jerusalem. The eight candles remind us of the eight days that one day’s worth of oil lasted to light the Temple. And I like the concept that smack dab in the middle of the eight candles is what’s referred to as a “helper” candle (properly named shamash). It’s used each night to light the other candles. Here also we wait instead of lighting all the candles at once. The first night the helper candle is lit, then lights one other candle. On the second night, the helper candle lights two and so on.

I have many people in my life who represent the shamash, the helper. When my own light is flickering, they step up with their own light and relight mine. I truly believe that God places these people in my life, as I’m sure he places them in yours.

The main light of my life is Jesus which may be why my favorite hymn starts like this: I want to walk as a child of the light; I want to follow Jesus. God sent the stars to give light to the world. The star of my life is Jesus.

I’m wishing you a most blessed holiday season filled with light.

Lord Jesus, Master of both the light and the darkness,
send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!” 

 -Henri Nouwen


I want to walk as a child of the light—a cappella