Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Candlelight 2014

Christmas Eve candlelight services have become very popular, and for good reason. On Christmas, those of us who follow Jesus actively look for ways we can worship. I think most of us, regardless of how close we feel to God on a daily basis, want to take some time for worship. In the midst of the bustle of Christmas, we want to remember the holy birth. And lighting candles in a dark auditorium to a song like Silent Night has a reverent tone that moves us.

So tonight there I was, singing in the choir at our church's service. It was awesome. As we sang about coming to worship the king (O Come All Ye Faithful) and what God was doing that night (Silent Night, O Holy Night), it was easy to overflow with thankfulness and love.

And then, the message took on a deeper meaning. For some reason, as the gospel story of Jesus' birth was being read (Luke 2:1-20), I looked around the sanctuary. There were well over 1500 faces looking up at me in the choir loft, and they all looked so similar. They were listening, nodding, smiling at times, and all seemed to be glad they were where they were. But I realized they were not similar. Every face was a unique individual, with their own story, with their own reason why the gospel resonates with them.

With that many people there, I know that almost any life situation you could imagine (at least in our American culture) was represented, although we all hide them very well. I looked around and imagined...

  • That one has cancer, and he's scared to death.
  • This one in front just lost his job, and doesn't know how he will support his family.
  • Over there...she just wants someone to listen to her but nobody pays any attention.
  • See him? He just went through a divorce, and it's killing him.
  • This one is going to the hospital after the service to see her husband.
  • The one to the right has children who won't speak to him anymore.
  • That one thinks he has everything he needs, but his life is empty.
On and on and on and on...1500 people, and all of us are broken in some way. You don't even want to get me started on my brokenness. Are we just whistling in the dark? Are we going to church, pretending that everyone is alright, when we are dying inside?

Well, the fact that we are not identical, that we are all broken in our own ways, is why the good news of Christmas is so powerful. The Creator of the universe knows everything about our world, about the broken societies we've built, and the struggles of each one of us. But instead of holding his nose and walking away, he decided to mix it up with us. To come down into the middle of it, suffer through the mess of being human, and bring us healing by his own suffering.
 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11, ESV)

And so we gather. And light candles. And sing. Not just to God, but to each other. To remind ourselves that while we are broken, God loved us anyway. So much that the Son entered time and space to live among us, serve us, suffer, die, and rise from the dead.

It's not surface. It's as deep as it gets. Have you experienced this healing, the healing that God sent us at Christmas? That's my prayer for you...and for me. Have a blessed Christmas!

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