LIGHTING THE CANDLE
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, “Here I am. ”If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places.
In old London there were few streetlights or public lamps on the main streets, and the side roads were not lit at all. Crime and violence so lurked in dark corners that a law was passed requiring residents to burn a candle above their door at night. But people would often put a candle over their door and not light it. Candles were expensive, and people just did not want to provide light for others at a cost to themselves. So watchmen would patrol the streets ringing a bell, knocking at doors and telling people to light their candles. People began to sing this rhyme:
A light here, maids, hang out your light,
And see your horns be clean and bright,
That so your candle clear may shine,
Continuing from six till nine.
In today’s scripture, the prophet Isaiah tells God’s people to let their light shine, even at a cost to themselves. Note the important “If…then” form of Isaiah’s statement: “IF you care for the needs of others…THEN your light will rise in the darkness.” For us to be light for others in a dark time, we are called to very specific acts of grace. God asks us to stop pointing an accusatory finger, to feed the hungry, and cease speaking evil. In such selfless acts of giving, God will shine His light through us. As Isaiah promises, “your gloom will be like the noonday.”
Isaiah writes at a time much like ours: a time of injustice, corruption, civil unrest, and anxious concern for the future. But God assures generous and caring people: “The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places.” Is it any wonder that Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35)!
How do we make our light shine in the darkness? The candle shows us how: by giving and being consumed in the giving!
PALMS DOWN/PALMS UP
Our loving Father, thank you for the light you shine into our darkness. Sometimes we are fearful for the future and want to watch out just for ourselves. Lighten us that we might be light to others, even at a cost to ourselves. Guide us in these difficult times, and shine your light on the way ahead. Amen.