You may wish to have all the ingredients for a Christingle handy as you read this:
An Orange, and a sharp knife
A red ribbon (or red insulation tape)
Four cocktail sticks
An assortment of small jelly sweets, marshmallows, and raisins
A 1x10cm candle, and a box of matches.
The Christingle tells a wonderful story – the greatest story ever told.
It starts when God made the world and everything in it, out of nothing.
Or actually, he made it all out of love – he loved the world into being.
Hold the orange in your hand, and imagine that you are God, holding the world in your hands, and loving it so much.
And into the world God poured every good gift – the changing seasons, the plants and trees, the animal world, and human beings, with their variety and beauty, and imagination, and potential.
Push the raisins and sweets onto the cocktail sticks, and then push the sticks into the orange, and as you do so, think about those blessings. What blessings would you like to thank God for today? What good things are you thankful for in your life? Think of them now, and be prepared to think of them again as you taste each sweet.
But even though God had blessed the world so richly, it was not the bright and light place that God intended it to be. Human beings have never really taken proper care of the world, or of each other, and we have often made the world a dark place.
What makes the world a dark place? What stops it being the place God wants it to be? ‘Name and shame’ the darkness now: war, famine, bullying, pollution…
So God sent his Son into the world to be the light of the world – not a light to shine on the world from heaven, but a light to shine from the earth itself – so Jesus was born in Bethlehem, God’s Son becoming a human being like us, to bring God’s light to a world in darkness.
Cut a cross shape in the top of your orange with a knife. Light your candle, and push it into the orange. Feel how firmly fixed it is.
And it was a very dark world that Jesus came to: his own people were oppressed, he was born in a dark and dingy stable, and if you read a little further in the story, you’d find out that Jesus and his family then became refugees – they had to run away to escape from King Herod, who wanted to kill the baby Jesus. There’s no doubt about it, he was born into a very dark world. But that’s exactly why he chose to go there.
When would you switch on a light, or light a candle? Only when it’s dark. Swich off the lights in the room where you are now. Enjoy how the light of a single candle flame takes the darkness out of a whole room.
But the world didn’t like the light – Jesus showed up all the wrong things that had been hidden in the dark. He showed up the injustice in the world, and lived a life that showed how we should treat people who are poor, or ill, or people we find difficult; he talked about how the leaders hadn’t been caring properly for everyone, and how people had forgotten what really matters.
But God still loved the world. On our Christingle we place a red ribbon around the orange – God’s love has always encircled the whole world…
Add the red ribbon to your Orange. How do we see God’s love for the world and for us? How do we know that people love us? And how do we know we love other people? Think of as many ways as you can that God’s love breaks into the world.
…that love was shown most deeply when the grown-up Jesus died on the cross, so the ribbon is red, for Jesus’ blood.
Blow out your candle. Watch the last spark dwindle and die. Wait a moment and then re-light your candle.
But even though Jesus died, the candle flame still burns brightly, because Jesus came alive again, showing that the love of God was deeper than all the hatred of the world, and the peace of God was stronger than the violence of the world, and the light of God was brighter than all the darkness of the world.
That’s the story that the Christingle tells. The story of the light and love of God. Jesus came to bring the light and love of God to every dark corner of the world.
So where do you think the light and love of God are right at this moment? Where in the world, and in what situations, would you most like the light and love of God to be now? In all the war-torn places of the world, in every place where people suffer and die, in every place where there is still injustice and oppression, and carelessness of one another… Let the images from the News, or your own memories and imagination, come into your mind now. Feel the weight of the ‘world’ in your hands, and feel the warmth of the candle flame, and see the light play on the surface of the orange.
Jesus said, ‘I’m the light of the world.’ And he also said, ‘You’re the light of the world’. But how does that light get from Jesus to us, and into the world? Christingles are best lit from one another: when our own flame has been lit with the light of God’s love, our next job is to pass it on – that’s how the light and love of God will spread through the world.
How will you share the light and love of God today, after this service, and over these next few weeks? What acts of kindness, of love? What words of peace? What prayers, what thoughts?
Today, and this Christmas, we remember how much God loves the world and each one of us. And we thank him for all his blessings. Just as he has so richly blessed us, we take those blessings and become a blessing ourselves to those around us and to the world.