Candle lighting has long been part of Catholic and Orthodox spirituality but was treated with suspicion at the Reformation. It’s interesting that in many of our churches we have, at least in Advent, lit candles and we realise that it’s now a popular part of spirituality. Kendrick recognises this with his modern song.
St John 1: 1-9
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
Like a candle flame Flickering small in our darkness Uncreated light Shines through infant eyes
God is with us, alleluia God is with us, alleluia Come to save us, alleluia Come to save us Alleluia!
Stars and angels sing Yet the earth sleeps in shadows Can this tiny spark Set a world on fire?
Yet his light shall shine From our lives, Spirit blazing As we touch the flame Of his holy fire
I find candlelight beguiling. It draws me in. It’s fizz in the dark is profoundly hopeful.
The dimness and shadow of winter in the northern hemisphere means that we welcome the sparkle of tealights awakening our souls, reminding us of warmth and brightness.
The popularity of Graham Kendrick’s song is testament to our longing for the light. ‘God is with us’, we are told, like a candle flame flickering in the darkness.
You will know a shaded space in your own life, and we all know it in the life of the world. How we long for a flames glow!
We can be forgiven, in this space between Christmas and New Year, for having shrunk away from the blazing Christ light. It is hard to hold Christ’s dazzling love at the front of our daily lives for too long, as the reality of the shadows creep in again. ‘Can this tiny spark set a world on fire?’
Yes. Yes it can! Here is a reminder that any glimmer of God’s presence in the shadows of life, can spark the kind of hope and joy that can beguile us and draw us in – igniting change, exposing injustice, giving warmth that comforts and heals.
John’s words, so often read at the end of Lessons and Carols, are a stark and wonderful reminder of how God is with us: ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it’.
Here is light for us and for all. Here is light for us to reflect. Here is light that saves us.
In this weird space after Christmas, the light still shines. Thanks be to God!
God with us, We give thanks for the light of the world. Shine in our night, we pray. Shine in the world’s shadows. Shine through infant eyes, and let us sing ‘Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia’ Amen
The Rev’d Martin Knight is minister of St Paul’s URC, South Croydon and South Croydon United Church (Methodist/URC).