February 22, 2023
Over the past four DeacoNotes, we have looked at the candles in the traditional Advent wreath. The first was for Hope (or Prophesy), the second for Peace, the third for Joy, and the fourth was for Love. There is only one left - it is the Christ candle. As I sit and contemplate the various Biblical truths this symbol can remind us of, my mind cannot help but place it in the context of the Transfiguration, that we read about this past Sunday.
Matthew 17:2 There he (Jesus) was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.
Coming at it from this perspective, reminds me, that this last Advent candle sits present in the wreath darkened and unlit throughout Advent until the very end. It is only lit on Christmas Eve. The lighting of this candle points to the arrival of the long-awaited Christ child. John would express the significance like this ...
John 1:9 - 12 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
John would expound on this idea a little further in his epistle,
I John 1: 5 - 7 God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
Just as Jesus' light burned brightly, Luke records him as reminding us to allow the light within us to do the same.
Luke 11: 33 No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.
And this is where my thoughts become interesting, or disconcerting, depending on your point of view. Many many years ago, when I was still young and vigorous, I was a youth group leader at the church I was attending at the time. We had a great group of high school students that loved to reach out and engage with others. One year we formed a basketball team and challenged the youth groups from other churches to a game. Our practice was to play the game, share some food, and then the leaders of the two churches would take turns leading a devotional afterwards.
Photo: Phillip Skellie (1981)
The youth group at one of the churches we played was led by their youth pastor, Rev. Phil Skellie. He was about my age and had just recently been graduated from seminary. After one of our games and a round of pizzas, Phil shared a devotional with our group that I have never forgotten, even after 40+ years. His idea was, that, just as we represent Christ with an Advent candle burning brightly, we can think of our own lives as candles. In this analogy, our God-given purpose is to burn brightly, sharing light into a darkened world.
I John 2: 6, 8 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did ... Yet I am writing you a new command; the truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.
But then he pointed out a very interesting aspect of our candle analogy. As the candle burns and spreads its light abroad, it is consumed. In fact the hotter and brighter it burns, the faster it will be consumed. At first you may think we have pushed the analogy too far, and yet, I think not. God wants our whole life; our full commitment. Luke records Jesus telling his disciples
Luke 14: 33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
And John instructs us
I John 3: 16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
About six years after our basketball game, Phil, would, himself be called to serve as a missionary, and subsequently served in missionary projects in New Zealand, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Mongolia, and Russia. One fellow missionary in Mongolia quotes Phil as having told him, Perseverance is long obedience in the same direction.
Another Phil, the American Christian missionary, Phillip James (Jim) Elliot, was one of five people killed in 1956 during Operation Auca, an attempt to evangelize the Huaorani people of Ecuador. Seven years earlier he had written in his journal,
He is no fool, who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.
I invite each of you to leave a comment below, or share a related story of your own, Your Brother In Christ, Warren Warren J. Ayer, Jr. Chairperson, Board of Deacons United Church of Colchester