BY AMY WALTON |
On a bureau in my bedroom is a slender taper, frayed and torn red paper dangling from it. It’s there as part of the table top landscape, along with various perfumes, jewelry, and a small music box. The familiar beeswax aroma has faded since last Christmas Eve, so I occasionally pick up the taper and inhale deeply, soaking in a flood of special memories of Christmases past.
Yes, I am talking about a Moravian candle.
I have another small one on my desk where I write and a cross-stitched image of one on a dining room wall. I’m pretty sure, too, that another such candle is tucked back in the glovebox of my car, a leftover from a couple Christmases ago and still there for purely sentimental reasons. Marie Kondo would not approve!
We Moravians do love our candles! From that first candle service in 1747 in an old castle in Germany to our communities around the globe, the symbol of Jesus’s kindling a blood-red flame in the hearts of believers has been permanently etched on our hearts. This reminds us to be the light of Christ.
In my six decades of life, I think I can count on one hand the number of Christmas Eve services I’ve missed at my home church, Mayodan Moravian. For as long as I can remember, I have held my candle high with other worshipers as we joyfully sing, “Jesus Bids Us Shine” and “Morning Star, O Cheering Sight.” My children grew up holding their own candles, too, and occasionally vying for the largest piece of sugar cake!
As a child, I didn’t quite grasp this concept of Jesus asking us to shine our “clear, pure light.” It wasn’t until I reached adulthood and began to probe the Gospels that I came to know what this light was all about. In the fifth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world and that we must let our light shine before others.
He is the light of the world. So are we. We are His vessels of illumination in a world of darkness.
And this time in which we are living needs a bit of extra light.
Several months ago, I started lamenting the absence of a Moravian Christmas due to this continuing pandemic. My home church, like many others, is having a candle and lovefeast service using the Zoom platform. Pre-packaged assemblages of buns, coffee, candles, and liturgy are available for drive-through pick up the previous day. I plan to participate from my home in Virginia and will probably have an outdoor gathering later in the evening around my fire pit with a small group of friends.
I’m planning for that and will be ordering trimmed beeswax candles and making sugar cake. I picture folks wrapped in blankets, sharing scripture and having conversations about the mind-blowing truth of Emmanuel, God With Us. We would share the simple lovefeast meal and lift our candles high, maybe spreading to various corners of the yard where we’d have our own spaces in which to sing “Jesus Bids Us Shine.” We’ll talk about how we can shine greater lights in the world in the new year.
Here’s the thing: With or without the traditional candle service, with or without a pandemic, with or without a candle, we are called to be light to others. Always.
But we don’t always allow our lights to shine. We hide them under baskets and stacks of baskets for various reasons: Feeling we aren’t qualified. Worrying about what others may think. Fearing rejection. Excuses, excuses…
We may not change the world with our kindness, service, donations, or encouragement; but we can start by shining our lights in our little corners: Our families, neighborhoods, places of work, the grocery store. We may likely be masked, leaving our smiles covered, or talking virtually, where we can’t really lean in; but we can still SHINE through our good deeds and edifying words and even the most minuscule gifts that can positively impact another.
So, on this coming Christmas Eve and in 2021, shine your light. Write down all the ways YOU can be the light of the world, the light of Christ, in a world that needs illumination.
May we all live those familiar words…
“In this world of darkness, we must shine
You in your small corner and I in mine.”
About the author
Amy Walton is a certified life coach, certified Christian life coach, speaker, and writer who has lived in coastal Virginia for nearly 30 years. A native of Mayodan, North Carolina, she was baptized, confirmed, and raised in Mayodan Moravian Church, where she remains an Associate Member. Connect with her at www.amy-walton.com or