Why we need candle light services

As my hand grasps the candle flickering in my hand, I am brought back to my first mission trip. I remember holding a candle gently in my hands as I watched the darkness around me dissipate and the entire area filled with light as every teenager clad in burgundy shirts carried a lit candle. We sang the song “I’ll Fly Away” and I felt a swell of emotions knowing I was being commissioned to go to Peru and to work with the people there and work to build a church facility. My life took such a drastic turn that day and I look at it as one of my biggest life milestones (yes, at fourteen).

I’m not being commissioned this time, I’m simply at a candlelight service on Christmas Eve. As I hold my light, I look around and take in the experience (this is difficult for an embarrassingly extroverted individual, so I cherish moments where I can humble myself and shut up). As I saw the range of individuals at church, I was moved by the greater narrative I was a part of. This is not the first candlelight service I have participated in and I doubt it will be the last. From the range of countries and cultures, states and experiences, candles have reminded believers that we too are lights in this world, a city on a hill. The intimacy of passing the light from one candle to another until the entire congregation carries a part of the light, is not only within this moment and at this time but I felt the historic and communal fellowship as well.

The more I wrestle with my faith, growing in the plenty and in the famine, I am pointed back to remembrance. I believe the cure to disbelief, to doubt, to discouragement is simply the act of remembrance. Every word of Scripture studied, every festival, every practice should point us back to what we are told to remember, the good news of the Gospel. Why else would Jesus say “do this in remembrance of me”? Why else would an entire book of the Old Testament be dedicated to reminding Israel to “watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live” (Deut. 4:9 NIV)? The very reason for name changes, the establishment of feasts and holy days, and the construction of altars is to point to remembrance, to consecrate ourselves to the thesis of the Gospel narrative.

So I stand with the image of my candle in my mind. I hope to carry it with me as I continue to wrestle and stumble as seasons of difficulty approach because I know that seasons of rest will come. Friends, my faith is not without testing. Sometimes the lies of the Evil One are not whispers but shouts, and the Holy Spirit feels far and forgotten.

This is why we remember.

We remember because we know that God is faithful. And when we remember His provision, love, and mercy of the past, we can trust that the mess we find ourselves in now has the same hope. To cure our ambivalence, our numbness, our disbelief, our doubt: we keep showing up. We show up to candle light services even though Christmas Eve is on a Saturday. We show up to our morning devotional even though we have been out of practice for so long. We show up to traditions, and services, and continue to practice Christian disciplines and why? Because the tradition of remembrance heals and holds us in the embrace of our faithful Father.

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