Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Christmas Eve Candle

            Most Christian congregations celebrate the eve of Christmas with some sort of candlelight service. Worshipers receive a small white candle inserted into a clear plastic cup, plastic holder, or paper ring to catch dripping wax. At some point during the liturgy, all the candles are lit, the lights dimmed or turned off, and all sing Silent Night or some other Christmas carol by candlelight as they recall and celebrate the incarnation of the Light of the World. When well-crafted and executed, the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service can be the most memorable and cherished worship service of the whole year, eliciting both tears and smiles for those who attend.

            When I was much younger, say around nine or ten years old or maybe a little older, I looked forward to attending the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service not only for its message of joy and peace but also for the candle. I always brought the candle from the service home with me and used it the rest of the winter to wax the runners of my sled.

            With a fresh coat of wax on my hand-me-down sled’s old, rusty runners I could race down neighborhood hills faster than you could say Jack Frost. I would sometimes swish and swoosh down slopes in a serpentine pattern. Other times I would just make a beeline straight down the grade, trying to see how fast and how far I could go.

            One winter my waxed runners and cold, slick snow combined to enable me to sled so fast and far that I slid right off a three or four foot high stone wall holding back the hillside I had just sped down, and I landed on the concrete sidewalk below. I survived that adventure without a scratch, but my hand-me-down sled did not. The runners were bent and the wood cracked. Soon afterward I was the proud owner or a newer and even larger sled, not a Western Flyer but a Western Clipper!

            I still have that Western Clipper, though it is no longer new, and it has been years since anyone has used it. I also still bring home the candle from the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, not to wax the runners of that old sled, but to remind me throughout the year that faith and trust in the incarnation of the Light of the World can help me negotiate the twists and turns of life, even when I find myself where I never expected to be.

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