Love Life Live Advent – 20th December – look at a candle flame

advent calendar candleMy daughter was baptised on 31st October (to be fair, it was a Sunday that year, and we were celebrating All Saints) so every year her lovely godparents give her (and us) something to do during Advent. Often it is one of those lovely candles that you light every evening, burning about a quarter of an inch of it while you eat your dinner. I am particularly impressed that they managed to post the candle to us and that it arrived in one piece, having traveled several thousand miles to do so!

It’s a lovely tradition, and we’ve done rather better with it this year than last; because I am not working in the evenings, we have eaten a lot more meals together as a family, and we’ve shared this beautiful candle flame every night.  It’s generated some lovely questions from the children about what all the ‘name of Jesus’ actually mean.  Some they know well (Good Shepherd, Prince of Peace) while some are less familiar (Lion of Judah). There is always plea, ‘Can I strike the match to light it this time?’ and a firm, parental, ‘no’; there is also a brief, generally good-natured tussle about who will get to blow it out.

But mostly we love the flame. We love how it reminds us that it’s Advent, and that it’s special. We love how lighting a candle makes our dinners feel special, even if we’re eating mash and beans. We even bought it a candle stick from the thrift store, so that the light from the flame could be reflected by the shiny brass.

And we love how when we blow it out, the smoke twists and swirls to fill the room, and yet just stops short of setting the alarm off.

A candle means all these things.  Enjoy one today – and every day until the Light of Christ comes into the world.

A hymn about light

This one might work at Epiphany, or any time when we get the Light of the World readings.  The tune is Gonfalon Royal (generally used for ‘The Royal banners forward go’)
As always, if you like it, you’re welcome to use it.

O radiant Lord and Light of light,
who turns earth’s shadows dazzling bright,
O flame of love that heav’n  imparts
to warm seven billion human hearts.

The colours of your dayspring’s glow,
a rainbow-gift to earth below,
to spread the spectrum of your grace,
dispersed through this and every place.

Still greater is the light unseen
transcending what our sense can glean:
our hearts’ imagination kneels
in awe at what our faith reveals.

O light that shines to guide our way,
Bless’d Son, illuminate our day!
And grant our eyes a friendly spark
to lead us through the hours of dark.

Now bring to light the things we fear,
and make our moral vision clear,
Remove the darkness from the soul
and make us bright and brave and whole.

O God, Creator, Christ, the Son,
And Holy Spirit, three in one:
To you our gathered voices raise,
Your universe unites in praise. Amen.

A sparkly christingle talk!

How about this for a sparkly way of looking at the Light and the World:

You will need:
Christingles for everyone, and the means to light them
A small vial of iron powder – you can buy this online.  Use powder rather then iron filings. 

Start with your vial of iron powder – show it, sprinkle some between your fingers, back into the container. Explain what it is – it looks just like dust. In fact, it’s what the earth’s core is made of. It’s the most common element in our planet. It’s earth-dust, nothing more; we might remember that the Bible tells of God making the first human being from dust.  You can’t get anything more earthy than this. It’s grey and dull, really. It doesn’t look like anything special. It doesn’t look like it’s going to do anything cool.  Not on its own, anyway.

But look what happens when we introduce the dust of the earth to the light of the world. (Light your own Christingle at this point, dim the lights, and carefully sprinkle some of the iron powder into the flame – it’s worth practicing before the service so you get the right amount – the iron should turn to bright orange sparks, clearly visible in a dark church.  You may need to get someone to hold your christingle for you so you have your hands free to do the sprinkling).

The dust of the earth comes alive when it touches the light of Christ – Jesus came into the world to bring it to life, to bring energy and joy to places that were grey and lifeless.  When Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world’ he meant that he was bringing the light of heaven right into the midst of earth’s darkness.  When he said ‘you are the light of the world’ he meant that he could transform our dull dustiness into bright shining sparks of God’s love in the world!

At this service, we turn from dust to sparkles! The light of Jesus is with us, and is bringing us to life, so that we can bring his light and life to the dark places of this world – that’s our life’s work, and we do it in the transforming love and power of Jesus.  So shine as lights in the world to the glory of God the Father!

As an added bonus, here’s an extra verse you can add to This Little Light of Mine, that reflects the message of the iron powder talk:

When I am feeling dull and grey,
and sunshine seems so far away,
when I don’t know quite where to start,
I remember the stardust in my heart:
all it needs is a tiny spark
to get me shining in the dark,
So Jesus, give me your fire divine
to let my little light shine!