A Christmas Candle
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” -Isaiah 40:31
What a year 2020 was! That’s really an understatement. When we were ringing in the New Year last year, nobody could have imagined the volume of changes, disruptions, cancellations, postponements and sadness our world would be enduring due to COVID-19. It is highly likely that we all know someone who lost a loved one or friend due to this horrible virus. As a faith community, we spend much time in prayer, asking for healing, comfort, strength and grace for those afflicted, as well as for a successful vaccine to control future spreading. Thankfully, vaccines have been developed and are being gradually distributed, but we all know that mask protocols and physical distancing will be in place for an extended time. Thus, our patience and respect for others are wonderful New Year’s resolutions in this much anticipated year of 2021.
Many of the worship messages delivered during the Advent and Christmas season have revolved around the theme of hope. Of course, moving into any new calendar year evokes the need for growth and transformation, but the events of this past year motivated the most skeptic people to explore the reality that a great hope is on the horizon. One of the most frequent comments I have heard is “I can’t wait until 2020 is over and 2021 is here!” While I applaud those people for looking forward to a better, happier and healthier future, I caution them not to expect a miracle just because the calendar turned to January 1, 2021. Instead, I strongly encourage them to turn to their faith in God, nurturing and growing in their relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Recently, my wife Kathy suggested I watch a movie titled, “The Christmas Candle,” based on the novel by Max Lucado. The setting of the movie occurs in the late 1800s in England. The general plot focuses on a pastor, Rev. David Richmond, who accepts a calling at a church in the fictional town of Gladbury. Upon arriving, Rev. Richmond quickly learns of the town’s obsession with a singular Christmas candle which has been blessed by an angel. Gladbury’s residents have believed for many years that whoever lights the Christmas Candle has a miracle bestowed upon them.
As a devoted believer in God and a faith leader, Rev. Richmond is concerned about this obsession and adamantly denounces the credibility of a singular candle providing a miracle to one singular person. Essentially Rev. Richmond’s theological message to the congregation is that they should pray and believe in God - not candle miracles. After the “Christmas Candle” is temporarily misplaced, the candle shop owner distributes 29 other candles to many people who have individual needs, including a boy who can’t speak, a dying blind man, an unemployed man who drinks too much, and a woman who wants to find a husband. Basically, they all think they have received THE Christmas Candle. During the Christmas Eve service, Rev. Richmond asks everyone who received a candle to reveal their “miracle.” The boy can talk, the blind man gains his sight before he dies, the man finds a job and limits his drinking, and the woman becomes engaged. These are just a few of the many miracles received by those who were given a candle.
This widespread distribution of candles throughout Gladbury aligns perfectly with Rev. Richmond’s message as he encourages the people to pray to God instead of seeking hope and change in a singular candle. The message of placing faith in God instead of an object is timeless and should be taken into account when anticipating a positive change in our lives just because the calendar turns to 2021. Yes, as Christians, we are encouraged to be positive, joyful, and hopeful for a healthy and prosperous New Year. Those words have never been more accurate. Yet, it is important to remember that our ultimate hope rests in the gracious hands of God and that we should always turn to our Savior Jesus Christ first and foremost to strengthen that hope.
If you haven’t seen “The Christmas Candle,” I won’t spoil the ending as it reveals another important message about faith.
I believe the hardships of 2020 have strengthened the faith of many. Here’s to a hopeful and healthy 2021 that brings back the normalcy that we have grown to appreciate!
God Bless and Happy New Year!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11