Friday, January 28, 2011

On Candlelight Services and Forgotten Corners of the Earth

Candlelight Service 2
Candlelight services seem like a sort of evangelical liturgy, don't they? Most evangelical churches do them, and yet there isn't any inherent meaning. Is it just because of the beauty of candles? I'm not against doing something for beauty's sake, but it is a little odd.

Regardless, Christmas Eve candlelight services have drawn tears to my eyes many times. This year, our new baby and nearly my whole family (my grandparents on both sides included) were at my church's Christmas Eve candlelight service. My grampa muttered a "holy cow" upon walking into our massive church, and I was thankful for the mix of the classic hymns and some beautiful new songs that I knew would be unfamiliar to my family. The service was good, and it really was beautiful to think of the "light" that was lit on stage, symbolizing the light that came into the world with the birth of Christ.

Like I said, our church is huge, and had the ground floor, and then theater style seating around the back, and then a separate balcony at the top. We were in the balcony and had a clear view of the candle being lit in the front, and the three people that went to the three ground floor sections and began walking up the aisles, lighting the candles of the people in the aisle seats as they went. We sang "Silent Night" as the light spread through the sanctuary like a puddle of water, and it was beautiful. When the light reached the back of the ground floor, there was a pause, but then some people made their way out of their seats and went back to those in the theater style seating and the light spread further, all the way up and back...

Except, once it reached the end of that section, it ended. Our balcony wasn't just a wide aisle away, we were a stairwell away. And so we held our candles in the dark, admiring the glittering auditorium as the song ended. It felt... awkward. I saw my mom look around in wonder and I knew what she was thinking as she leaned over and whispered to my dad.

My pastor voiced the thought when he came back on stage, pointing out the unintended poignant symbolism of an auditorium filled with light and wonder, and a corner left alone, too difficult to reach and forgotten as the crowd was swept into the beauty of their own experience. We waited and watched them, but couldn't join in. Isn't this so often what the Church does? For my mom, especially, this is a powerful picture, since they have spent nearly 25 years working in the Muslim world. Especially where they are now, it's easy to feel like the part of the world they're in has been simply deemed too hard, too far away. The percentage of money and ministry spent in the Muslim world is comparatively minuscule to what we in the West spend on those right next door.

Next door is important. It is amazing to see light spread across the auditorium, person to person. But what a shame it is if the auditorium is lit and we decide to look away from the dark corner that is too hard to reach and requires getting out of our seats.

I know it's been a month since Christmas Eve, so why is this on my mind? I think of this now as I watch my parents deal with their own futures. For my brother's sake, they eventually have to come back to the US and settle down so that they can help him move into a semi-independent lifestyle as a Down Syndrome adult. It's solemn for me to observe my parent's love and passion for the people of that country, people, and part of the world. I know their heart and the reason they moved over there. As they come back, do others care to go? I'm reminded of the service and my mom's reaction to that picture of the light and the darkness.


Jaimie said...

This post is epic win. What a great analogy to draw.

Mason said...

Brilliant post, and an important point. Be it the Muslim world, the LGBT community, the jaded and de-churched, it is all too easy for us to neglect reaching out to those who seem more difficult to approach.