Candles of joy despite all sadness, Candles of hope where despair keeps watch, Candles of courage for fears ever present, Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days, Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens, Candles of love to inspire all my living, Candles that will burn all the year long.
– Howard Thurman, (1899-1981) author, philosopher, pastor
As humans, we have an ancient relationship of love and fear when it comes to fire. Fire is essential for our survival and certainly marked a turning point for our species when we learned to make and control fire. By firelight, early human communities began to cook together and build larger communities. We still love to sit round the campfire or in front of the fireplace to share songs and stories. For many of us, these precious times of gathering in front of a fire are some of our happiest memories of family and friends.
In the Bible, the presence of fire is a sign of call, a method of judgement, a source of wonder, danger, and sign of the presence of God. Fire is described in many, many religious texts as a means of purification. “For God is like a refiner’s fire.” In the presence of fire, nothing stays the same. Everything is changed.
Human passion is often described as a burning fire. What does it mean to be on fire with love, not just for a beloved, but for our neighbors? During this season of shortened days could we use the increased darkness as an opportunity to light the fires within that lead us to a deeper bond with the Divine? As we gather in worship this final weekend of Advent and on Christmas Eve, may the candles we light this Christmas bring peace and joy throughout the earth.