Let Light of Christ Shine
By: Commissioner Willis Howell
It was Christmas Eve. Barbara and I were sitting in the sanctuary of one of the community’s bigger churches enjoying a carols and candlelight service. The huge space was expertly decorated with garland, wreaths, a towering Christmas tree and a live nativity scene with all the usual characters in their designated places — including real animals.
Accompanied by a full orchestra, we spent the evening singing well-known carols, being entertained by short — and sometimes funny — sketches, and listening to familiar gospel readings about the birth of Jesus.
Toward the end of the service, the worship leader instructed us to take up the candles we were each handed when we entered the chapel. As he spoke, the lights gradually dimmed until we were sitting in near darkness. Coming onto the platform from a side entrance, dressed in a flowing white robe and guided by the light of the single lit candle she held, was a teenaged girl. “O, come let us adore Him,” she sang in a beautiful, clear voice that floated over the congregation like a feather on a gentle breeze.
One by one, each of us in the room added our voices to hers. As we did, she made her way to the front row where she used her candle’s flame to light the candle of the person sitting on the end of the pew. You know how it works from there. The girl repeated her candle-lighting action at each pew, and those end-of-the-row people, now with their candles burning, turned and lit their neighbors’ candles, who in turn lit the candle of the person next to them. Before long, the entire room radiated with the warm glow of hundreds of candles. The effect was wonderful. Finally, led by the music of a single acoustic guitar, we closed the candlelight service by singing “Silent Night.”
Following the last line of the song, the lights slowly came back up signaling the end of the meeting, cueing us that it was time to gather our belongings to leave. The worship leader stepped forward one last time to thank everyone for coming. He wished us a merry and blessed Christmas, and reminded us that the good news of Christ’s birth was the essential heart of the message of Christmas. If he had stopped there, it would’ve been fine. But he didn’t. “As you leave,” he went on to say, “please be sure to extinguish your candles and place them in the bins by the doors.” While I understood what he meant, the unintended symbolism of what we were being invited to do hit me like a dodgeball thrown by the schoolyard bully. Having just celebrated the very fact that Jesus had come to be the desperately needed light of the world, we were now reentering the outside darkness after intentionally extinguishing the very light we had received.
I stood there and watched, wondering: How many Christians, Sunday after Sunday, carefully and intentionally leave behind the bright evidence of where they’ve just been and what they’ve just celebrated?
My friends, Jesus didn’t come into the world only to be reduced to a sentimental glow enjoyed by insiders huddled away in a sanctuary, hidden from the view of those who need him most. He came to bring the light of salvation to a world desperately groping in spiritual darkness. But that much-needed light of Christ can only glow where we take it.
So here’s what I’m asking of each of you: For the rest of this Christmas season, do all you can to make the world a brighter place. Whatever you’re doing, wherever you find yourself, regardless of location, circumstances or surroundings, be sure to let the brightness of Christ shine through you.