On December 20, we held a Blue Christmas service in Waltham for people who are experiencing homelessness. Part of the service included passing the Holy Light from one to another. We sat in a circle in the choir room, each on our wood chairs facing one another and a small table in the middle, with a beautiful golden linen cloth covering it as the candles from the Advent Wreath shined bright on the communion bread and juice placed next to it.
When the time came, we asked Paul to light his candle from the Advent wreathe and begin the passing of light from one to another. It was going to be beautiful, as the light would make its way all the way around the circle. However, a couple of the men, one fella who just gotten new front teeth (because his were knocked out in a fight) and another who with his unshaven beard looked like he must have played high school football, took out their cigarette lighters and lit their own candles. I said, “no, no, wait, you guys are jumping ahead of us.” They quickly below out their candles and sat sheepishly, shoulders hunched over, peering around. Then Paul came back over to them and re-lit their candles from his own, still not following the circle of light.
And then I realized that is how the light of God works. It is not a well-orchestrated, planned ritual. No, it is the movement of the Holy Spirit, appearing in the middle of the darkness. Sometimes we take out our own lighters and light our own candle, while other times we wait patiently for the light to come around to us and then at times we need a friend to come over, out of turn and light our candle.
Just as we feel the layers of clothing upon our bodies: from hats, to gloves, to coats, sweaters, socks and boots; so too do we feel the layers of emotions: the sorrow, sadness, anxiety, depression, joy, excitement, love and awe.
The truth is no matter how we receive the light, no matter how our candles are lit, the promise of God is that they will be lit. That in every dark moment there will be light because: Light is good and God separated the light from the darkness.