I just love candles. I may be addicted actually, can't get enough. Currently, there are no less than seven candles of different sizes and scents, held in assorted glass vessels on my living room's old wooden coffee table tray. Weekend mornings, when time ebbs and slows, allowing for the luxury of lounging, the wicks all get lit; their dancing flames flicker and glow in unison like a harmonious symphony of light. The sweet aromas fill the room with nuances of vanilla, berry and spice. Their luminous presence lulls me into restful repose and helps replenish my drained, squeezed-out spirit after the completion of another frenetic work week.
Something about this early day ritual feels sacred...can't put my mind's finger on it, but it just seems significant. Then I realize, lighting of flame is a simple act that connects every generation of humanity, from the first flame discovered and burned for heat and roasting food, from seeing in the dark, to the use in worship of a Holy God. It tethers a golden-lit rope connecting us all; the first earth dwellers right up to even me, a year 2020 middle-aged mom in Oregon, beckoning the wicks to blaze. This practice not only adds light and ambiance to my home, it brings a sense of sacred delight to my heart and quiets my spinning soul.
In Jewish tradition of Jesus' time (and still today) light is used to represent joy, the distinction of holy days from the typical, and God's intimate presence. The light from an oil lantern or from waxy candle meant and offers more than a way-finder in the darkness, it is symbolic of life itself - God. Exodus 3 tells us that Moses came into God's presence in the desert displayed in the form of an ever-burning bush. As Moses got near the Lord instructed him: “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Ex. 3:5-6 NIV) We are all to do the same. When we enter the realm of the Holy, we must regard it as hallowed and set apart from our everyday to-do task list. Being with God, in His everlasting light is far from ordinary, it is worthy of our reverence and awe. It is unbelievable that we are even asked by Him to do it actually. Quite astonishing.
But as our heavenly Father, He loves us deeply and wants to give us life in abundance and we cannot have this apart from Him. He desires our attention and time. Again, this should bring us to a place of awe; socks and shoes removed, kneeling in unending gratitude. The One who has and created everything wants to spend time with us...shocking indeed.
Speaking of, Jesus was really good at shocking His audience with His claims. This one is no exception:
“I am the light of the world. The person who follows me will never live in darkness but will have the light that gives life.” (John 8:12)
"Light that gives life". This stunning proclamation brought awe and wonder to the meek and humble and God-seeking people in the crowd, but grated on the minds of others. It would have undeniable messianic overtones and be way too deity-laced for the religious leaders to take. The Pharisees of His day thought and said things akin to: "Wait...back up a bit Jesus. YOU? A dirt poor man from Nazareth? You are declaring you are the Messiah; light of the entire world? You are the one who is the conqueror and king? No way, not possible, you must be crazy and not only that, you must be demon-possessed."
Christ never backed away nor modified His statements of divinity. Instead, He backed up His claims with unheard of scriptural truth and knowledge, miraculous signs and healings and detailed fulfillment of centuries-old prophecy. Far from crazy, He was "I Am" and the eighth chapter of John puts an exclamation point on this fact when Jesus comes right out and says: “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I Am!” (John 8:58)
The great I Am, Holy Light is here! It is not by accident that the Messiah's arrival was announced through a unique star's light. The wise men, as noted in Matthew chapter 2, being connected to God's purposes, knew exactly what it meant. They quickly dropped everything else on their agenda to urgently go see the new king. Emmanuel had happened - God was back on earth, breathing among us, bringing the long-awaited light into darkness. He does the very same for us today - brings joy and peace and life into the dimmest days and lifeless moments when we invite Him in and sit still in His love-light. We are wise to take time also to revel in this sacred relationship's gift.
The lighting of a candle can remind us to pause, remembering His purpose for us and, with lit candles or not, we should intentionally set apart time daily spent doing the best thing we can; resting in the presence of our soul-filler. Our Creator, our Center, indeed our Light. Next time you stop and do this act, remember Him, remember His love, remember His promise of never leaving you and His never-extinguishing light. The eternal flame remains just that; eternal!
Question: What will you do today to quiet your soul and connect with God?