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Friday, December 2, 2011

Lighting the Candle

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
Psalm 36:7-9

In the northern hemisphere, when the sun passed the fall equinox on September 23, the darkness began to exceed the daylight. By the time we enter the season of Advent we are in the darkest time of the year, and light becomes a more meaningful symbol in our lives. Every time we light the Advent candle, a luminary, or switch on our Christmas lights, we are proclaiming that the darkness will not overcome God’s light.

Light is an especially apt symbol because of the many positive associations we make with it. It is light that shows us the way when we are lost. It is light that helps us find what we have lost. It is light that reveals what is damaged or dirty. Light also warns of trouble, as the lighthouse pointing out the dangerous rocks below, or the traffic light flashing danger ahead. We also use light to celebrate, as with the fireworks on the Fourth of July, or the candles on top of the cake. But most of all, light is such a meaningful symbol for us because light is essential for all of life and for growth. As darkness is a natural symbol for death and destruction, so light is a natural symbol for life, and all of its blessings.

In today’s text the psalmist David again faces darkness. From the psalm’s opening verses (36:1-4) Bible commentators suggest that either this was a time when David was being pursued by Saul, or when David’s own son, Absalom, led a successful palace coup against him. Whatever the background, it is clear that it was a dark time, as David begins the psalm complaining about the attacks of his enemies.

But in David’s darkness we find David celebrating God as “the fountain of life” in whose “light we see light”. In God’s light David sees light in all the warmth, guidance, blessing, and life that God brings. David writes not about some future heavenly bliss, but about the light and life that God gives him now.

I wonder if that is our fascination with lights and candles in this dark time of the year. Sure, the lights are beautiful to look at. But perhaps there is something deeper here. They remind us of Jesus who said: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Long ago, on a cold winter night, a baby was born in a dark manger. This baby was the light of the world. He would light the path for us, shine the light of God’s love upon us, and make a way through a world that is often dark. It is a great story, and a great message for our world.

The early church struggled to the find words to express this mystery of the incarnation, the eternal God born into the whirl of time and space. I marvel and I worship each time I read the words of the early church in the Nicene Creed:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, True God from True God, True Light from True Light… (from the Nicene Creed)

Amen, and amen!



We praise you Lord Jesus, that you are the light of the world. You are God’s one true light sent into our darkness. We ask that your Holy Spirit open the eyes of our hearts that we might see more of your light in our lives today. Help us to reflect your light to those around us. Amen.

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