LIGHTING THE CANDLE
The LORD is my light and my salvation – Whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the strength of my life – Of whom shall I be afraid?
It was a dark time for Moravian Christians in 1747 when their world was rocked by political unrest and religious persecution. Regardless, Moravian pastor John de Watteville wanted to instill the joy of Christ’s coming in the children of his congregation in Marienborn, Germany. To do this, Pastor created a simple candle lighting service for the children that he called “Christingle” (German: “Little Christ Child”).
In the Christingle service Pastor de Watteville presented each child a lit candle as a reminder that the baby Jesus was given as God’s light for a dark world. Around the base of the candle, Pastor looped a red ribbon to symbolize Christ’s blood cleansing the sins of the world. The Pastor then prayed over the children, “Lord Jesus, kindle a blood-red flame in these dear children’s hearts.”
History records each child trying to keep the candle lit all the way home. It must have been a moving and tearful sight to see candlelight shining on the happy faces. Christingle was so meaningful for both children and adults that they celebrated it the next Christmas, spreading it to other Moravian communities. When Moravians came to America, they brought the Christingle candle lighting service to their settlements of Bethlehem and Nazareth in Pennsylvania, and to Salem, North Carolina.
Over the years Moravians added to the Christingle celebration by pushing a simple candle into an orange, symbolizing Jesus as the Light of the world. To this orange they eventually added dried fruit on toothpicks to represent the fruits of God’s good earth.
American poet Theodore Roethke observed, “In a dark time, the eyes begin to begin to see.” Just as eyes dilate when we step into a dark room, so our spiritual eyes dilate when we enter a dark time; we can better see the Light of God. It is often during life events like the death of a loved one, economic loss, shattered dreams, or national turmoil that our eyes open more widely to the Christ Child’s light in our darkness. In today’s scripture text David writes at a time when the world is very dark for him. Evildoers assail David, an army is encamped against him, and war rises up (Psalm 27:2-3). It is in this dark time that David sees big: “The LORD is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?”
PALMS DOWN/PALMS UP
Lord Jesus, you truly are our light and our salvation. The bright beam of your love shines on us. We have no cause to be afraid because you are with us. We pray for those we know who are in darkness today; open wide their eyes to see the light of Christ shining. Amen.