The Candle of Hope
He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. – Hebrews 1:3 (NRSV)
One Christmas Eve when my children were small, I remember that while I sat in church and watched the pastor light the Christ candle, I held a happy picture in my mind of our real Advent wreath at home.
This was followed immediately by a terrifying vision. Had we ever put out the candles we lit at dinner? I whispered a plea to my spouse, and he took off for the short drive home. As minutes went by, I thought of how dry the wreath was, how long the candles had been burning, and how low the candle of hope must be after weeks of celebrating.
I sang the carols, stood up and sat down in the right places, though my ears strained for the sound of sirens in the neighborhood while the Christmas story was told.
We tell it because we believe that in a time when the world seemed beyond hope, God broke into human history and became one of us. We tell this story because we believe that in this time when the world needs God so desperately, Christ is breaking in right now.
At home, the candles were still burning that night, the candle of hope so low it seemed miraculous that the wreath and the house did not catch fire. I still go to the thin space between fear and relief, between mystery and awe, whenever we light the candles, on that night, and on this night, when Christ is born.
O Holy One of Mystery, may we find you in the mystery of flickering light and the hope of a new beginning. Amen.
Martha Spong is a UCC pastor, a clergy coach, and editor of The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle, from The Pilgrim Press.