The Illumination of Candles

I love the flickering light from candles at a romantic dinner. I love the glow from the big three-wick candles we light in winter, and the candles of the angel chimes that tell us that Christmas is coming. On Sundays, I love to watch the heated air shimmer above the candles on the altar, and at the lectern where we read from the big Bible.

What I love best is Easter Vigil, when we gather before dawn, bundled up by the fire outside, and then all carry our little candles into the church. We read from the big Bible by the light of those tiny candles and the lectern tapers. It feels like a connection through the centuries. The candles shine on the pages of the Bible, allowing our human voices to retell the stories of God. Creation. The Dry Bones. The parting of the Red Sea. For everyone there, the candles make it magical.

In this young century, candles have a lot of competition. Their old rivals, the oil lamps, are far and few between. Even incandescent light bulbs are waning. Instead we have fluorescent bulbs and book lights and cellphones and computer screens and televisions and jumbo-trons. When I walk through my house at night, there’s no need for a flashlight. LEDs from this gadget and that gadget light my way, like so many runway lights on the edges of each room. These instruments of light, and often sound, are certainly wonderful inventions, aids to culture and convenience and safety and all the rest. But where is the darkness? Where is the silence?

I’ve heard it said that God speaks to the silence. Having some quiet time is essential, to be still and to listen for the words of God. But I would suggest that lighting a candle or two, there in the place of stillness, there in the presence of God’s word, draws the energy of small flames through the millennia, illuminating His way into our hearts.

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