I think I am the only one who doesn’t like Candlelight Christmas Eve Services.
Oh don’t get me wrong. I love the Christmas Eve part. Growing up in an unequally yoked family, my childhood Christmases were filled with tension and discord. Early on, the peaceful haven of our church’s Christmas Eve service centered my soul on the real reason for our celebrations. In all the hoopla, Christmas Eve became a sanctuary of peace, a few moments to pause and reflect on the Babe, the Son of Mary, Christ my Savior who brought meaning and love into my life.
What is it that you don’t like about Candlelight Christmas Eve services, Karen?
I don’t like candlelight. It doesn’t do a thing for me. Intellectually I understand the spiritual symbolism of light coming into the darkness, how we are to take His light into the world, one little candle will shine in the darkness, yada, yada. But I don’t get it.
The problem is me. My weak eyes react viciously to glare. After I light my candle from the person next to me, I cup my hand in front of the flame. I avert my eyes from looking at the other candles. I fret about fire danger and wonder how I would get out of a burning building. By the time I leave church, I have a massive headache. How anyone can find this enjoyable is beyond my comprehension. And, yes, I don’t like romantic candlelight dinners either. My husband is most romantic when he asks the host for a well lit corner.
It isn’t that light itself is bad. It’s the contrast. The greater the contrast between a darkened environment and a bright light, the greater my pain and discomfort.
I’m not the only one with a case of light glare issues. 1 Timothy 6:16 tells me that God lives in unapproachable light where no one can see Him. When God met the Israelites at Mt Sinai, they trembled in fear and begged Moses to speak to God for them (Ex 19:18,19). Later, after Moses’ encounter with God, he wore a veil over his face to hide the brilliance of God’s reflection (Ex 34:29-35). The prophet Isaiah came undone at the sight of God and cried, “Woe is me (Is 6:1-5)!”
At each sighting of God, these Old Testament people cowered and ran for cover like a bevy of carpenter ants exposed to the light. The problem wasn’t with the light. Their souls were weak, making them sensitive to the sight of God. We are no different. When the light of God’s truth shines on our sinful nature, our sin-filled short-sightedness cringes and retreats. The more contrast between holiness and sin, the greater our sensitivity.
In recent months, many of my Christian friends have expressed bewilderment at society’s reaction to Christians. Society wants to ban the words Merry Christmas. They want to remove Bibles from school desks. They want to allow Muslim mosques but prohibit Christian groups on college campuses. Why the hostility? Why the inconsistency? Why are they picking on Christians?
We sing songs about letting our light shine for Jesus, yet become dismayed when the world doesn’t like our light. Is it perhaps, like my weakened eyes, that the world’s sin sick souls have become uber-sensitive to light? That the light of God’s truth not only exposes their sin but actually hurts? The contrast between their lifestyle and God’s truth becomes too much of a struggle, so they retreat and run for cover, blaming the light rather than the darkened worldview they have embraced?
Other than wearing a hat which would mess up my hair and block others’ view of the candlelight, the solution to my Christmas Eve dilemma is to strengthen my eyes and neutralize the darkness. Unfortunately, not an option. As a Christian, the more I shed my carnal nature, the more comfortable I become with God and His ways. That option is one that will work.
One day, Revelation 7 tells me, a great multitude beyond count will stand before the throne of God, worshipping Him for the salvation He has provided. The writer doesn’t mention any glare issues. There will be no night in heaven, no need for the sun. God will be our all-encompassing light.
Until then, Hebrews 4:16 (one of my favorite verses) encourages believers to approach God’s throne. This throne of unapproachable light? How can we do that?
As we left the church this past Christmas Eve, I clutched my husband’s arm in sighted guide fashion. “I’m so glad I got to sit with you this Christmas Eve,” I told him. “When you’re preaching at the Christmas Eve service, I have to sit by myself and struggle through the whole candle thing on my own.”
Catch the beautiful words of Hebrews 4:14:
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.”
If we hold on to our faith, like a blind person holds on to the arm of a sighted guide, we can march right up to that throne of unapproachable holiness. We can stand in the shadow of the cross and dare and bear to come close to the light of God. As we grow in our faith, the darkness drops behind us, Christ’s truth illuminates our lives, neutralizing the darkness, and we are able to bear the light of God’s holiness.