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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lighting the Candle

The LORD is my light and my salvation –
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life –
of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 27:1

It was a dark time for the Moravian Christians in 1747 as their world was rocked by political unrest and religious persecution. Moravian Pastor John de Watteville wanted to impart to the children of his congregation in Marienborn, Germany, the joy of the Christ-Child’s coming. To do this, the Pastor created a simple candle service for the children that he called “Christingle”, which in German means “Christ-Light”.

In the Christingle service Pastor de Watteville presented each child a lighted candle to remind them that the baby Jesus was given as God’s light to a dark world. And around the base of each candle, the Pastor looped a red ribbon to symbolize Christ’s blood given for our salvation. The Pastor prayed over the children these words: “Lord Jesus, kindle a blood-red flame in these dear children’s hearts”.

It is recorded that each child tried to keep their candles lit the whole way home. It must have been a moving sight to see the candlelight on the children’s happy faces. The Christingle was so meaningful for children and adults that they celebrated it the next Christmas, and it quickly spread to other Moravian communities. When the Moravians came to America in the mid 18th century to establish mission communities among the Indians, they brought the Christingle to their settlements of Bethlehem and Nazareth, Pennsylvania, and Salem, North Carolina.

Over the next two centuries Moravians added the following features to the simple white candle and red ribbon: an orange representing the world Moravians wanted to reach for Christ; dried fruits on toothpicks, representing the fruits of God’s good earth. The red ribbon is wrapped around the orange, and a lit candle pushed into the center of the orange, representing Christ as the light of the world.

The American poet, Theodore Roethke, observed that “In a dark time, the eye begins to see”. Just as when we step into a dark room the eyes dilate to allow more light, so when we enter dark times our spiritual eyes open wider to the light of God. It is often life events like the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or a shattered dream that open our eyes more widely to the true Light of Christmas.

In today’s text, the psalmist David is in one of the darkest times of his life; it is then that he sees that God is his “light”: “The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear?”

We gather to praise the Lord, who is our Light:
Who shines the bright beam of love upon us all.
Come let us worship the God who lights our life.
– Joan Stott, “The Timeless Psalms”




Lord Jesus, you truly are our light and our salvation. We have no cause today to be afraid, because you are with us. We pray for those we know who are in darkness today; may their eyes be opened wide to see the Christ-Light who shines upon them. Kindle a blood-red flame in our hearts. Amen.

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