Thursday, December 24 Christmas Eve
I have been walking around thinking about the symbols of our faith. There are so many symbols used by Christians today; how was I supposed to choose the best one to write about? My choice became obvious when I kept coming back to the same memory over and over again.
With Advent right around the corner, my mind kept wandering back to First Baptist Church on Christmas Eve with the Advent Wreath, the Chrismon trees decorated so beautifully, and the entire sanctuary decorated with greens and reds. But to me, the one thing that demands attention and reverence is the candles we light each Christmas Eve. The candles represent to me the hope of things to come. Like the star leading the Magi to the Baby Jesus, each point of candlelight leads me closer to God. Each point of light reminds me of the promise made to us by God that he is with us and he will be watching over us always. I see that star shining, leading the Magi to the manger in Bethlehem, and I have hope for our future.
I have always sat anxiously through the Christmas Eve service waiting for the lighting of the candles. It is as exciting to me today as it was 30 years ago when I was a child at First Baptist. I have always been moved by the way our candles are lit by passing the flame from one to another until the entire congregation’s candles are lit. We are not only passing the flame to each other, but we are passing to each other the hope that everything will be okay. The Baby Jesus is on the way and he will fulfill God’s promise to us all.
I sat in the choir loft the first time last Christmas Eve, and even though I was terrified of messing up “Congregation Arise,” what I witnessed brought tears to my eyes. I got to watch the lighting of the candles from up high; the flame passing from one person to another. One point of light became two, two became four and so on until all the pews were filled with tiny points of light. And then…we began singing “Silent Night, Holy Night.” A lump formed in my throat. As we reached the part where everyone raised their candles to the heavens, my eyes filled with tears and I had to stop singing. Hope. Each point of light, a beacon summoning my fears and apprehensions from me to be replaced with hope.
After Christmas, time continues to tick, tick, tick. The joy of Christmas begins to ebb as the toils of everyday life begin to grow harder and harder. I find myself wondering, “Will I make it through?” “How can I keep everything going?” “What can I do?” and then I remember Christmas Eve. I replay the lighting of the candles – our congregation joining together as one to raise our stars to heaven and sing “Silent Night, Holy Night,” bringing hope to all who have need for it.
– Kami Johnson