In our family, birthdays are traditionally celebrated by lighting candles on a birthday cake and singing the “Happy Birthday” song. I can’t tell you what I received as a birthday gift even a year ago, let alone ten years ago or 50 years ago. But I can remember many, many occasions of blowing out the candles on a cake surrounded by loved ones singing “Happy Birthday”.
Candles play a prominent role during Advent—the Advent wreath is lighted each week at church, electric and battery-powered candles are placed in windows to welcome visitors, and candles grace many mantles, giving off their memory-inducing scents of the season. Candles flicker on the faces of loved ones gathered around our dinner tables and paint our fellow worshippers with a golden glow during the Christmas Eve candlelight service.
During Jesus’ time on Earth, candles had far more practical uses. They provided essential light for daily activities like reading, working, walking safely at night. Candles helped to dispel fear, warn of danger, and reveal obstacles.
It is easy to see why Jesus calls himself “The Light of the World.” (John 8:12) He helps us find our way spiritually, reveals hidden traps and dangers, and brightens our outlook on life.
Candles provide light by giving up themselves. Jesus gave himself so that the world could see, in his death and resurrection, the love of God. That’s what light does. It helps us see! Jesus showed us God’s love by dying on the cross for our sins!
The second half of John 8:12 shares Jesus’ promise that we will never walk in darkness. He is always with us, guiding us, helping us to see our way, even when we go through difficult circumstances.
There is a condition attached to this promise--we must be following him. For Jesus’ light to shine on our lives, we must be following him.
I can remember times when a storm has knocked out the power and I had to follow someone carrying a candle. If I veered away from the person with the candle, or tried to get ahead of them, I found myself stumbling in the dark. That’s how it is with following Jesus. We need to stay close beside him and let his light lead us.
As we celebrate the birth of Jesus by lighting candles this Christmas, may we remember why—because Jesus is the Light shining in the darkness. May you walk in His light this season and always.
©2016 Pamela D. Williams