A Candle’s Message

Norbert Lieth

Jesus says, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46). What does it mean when we contemplate the candles during Advent?

Lights are shining everywhere during Advent. They create a pleasant, soothing atmosphere. We light candles in our homes, which are especially cozy now. But what does the image of a glowing candle convey to us?

A Candle Burns Silently
God came into the world quietly. Not into a royal palace where everyone was awaiting a monarch’s birth, but a quiet place. Because there was no room in the inn, Jesus was born in a stable. There were hardly any guests at the birth.

Jesus kept to the background for about 30 years (Luke 3:23). It was quiet around Him. He learned in silence and grew up in silence. The evangelist Matthew takes up one of Isaiah’s prophecies, which Jesus fulfilled: “He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets” (Matt 12:19). This mainly applies to the streets of Jerusalem.

He appeared and acted humble and meek, with no political aspirations. His demeanor was that of a lamb, not a lion. He was no rabble-rouser, and went about his business without shouting out His message on the streets of Jerusalem. Jesus did not grasp at power by force. He frequently withdrew, sought solitude, and did not want to be made king (Luke 5:16; 9:10; John 6:15). He entered synagogues and spoke there (Mark 1:21; 3:1; 6:2; Luke 4:15-16; 6:6; John 6:59). He preached by the sea and in the fields of Galilee. He spoke to individuals, to His disciples, or to specific groups. And that’s how it is to this day: Where much in this world screams, blares, and calls out, God’s love penetrates our hearts calmly and serenely.

Here is a prophetic example from the Old Testament: “And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13).

The Lord was not in the wind, nor in the earthquake or the fire, but in the soft, small whisper. In the same way, Jesus did not appear in the stormy wind of judgment; not in an earthquake’s might or a destructive fire, but in the gentle breeze of love and gentleness.

We don’t have to shout; we can shine softly where we’ve been placed.

The Flame Is Small…
…and yet it can illuminate the darkness of a large room.

Jesus was born in the night as a small human child and placed in a manger. It is He who illuminated the dark night of this world, and that of countless hearts. 

The wise men saw the light from afar and allowed themselves to be drawn to it.

Nobody else has achieved what He has. His words are as relevant today as if they were spoken yesterday. His work of redemption is just as valid today as it was 2,000 years ago. His person gives light and life forever. Everyone who calls upon Him becomes illuminated. Jesus was able to say, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

There are candles of every size, from large ones down to small tea lights, depending on their purpose. It doesn’t matter which you are, only that you shine in your place and for your purpose. God will not ask how big a candle you were, but whether you shone.

A Candle’s Flame Is Constantly Flickering
A candle’s light is always moving, always taking on new forms. God brings movement into our lives. His Holy Spirit is not motionless. He urges, leads, applies brakes, drives, grants burdens and spiritual visions. The Lord is always good for a surprise! Things never get boring with Him.

When you read the Gospels, you’ll find that the disciples could scarcely keep up with the Lord and were constantly amazed. Something new was always going on, and there were surprises. He was always someplace new. His words turned everything on its head. Jesus comforted and rebuffed. He established and tore down traditions. He encouraged and disappointed. He drew and cast out. When His disciples wanted to stay, He moved ahead. Where they didn’t even want to enter, He remained.

The disciples cried out in amazement, “What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him” (Luke 8:25b). The people asked, “Who is this that forgiveth sins also?” (Luke 7:49b).

When Jesus wanted to return to Judea, the disciples interjected, “Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?” (John 11:8). When Paul and his companions later wanted to go to Asia, the Spirit prevented them and urged them to travel to Macedonia instead (Acts 16:6-10). Life is adventurous with Jesus. 

Are you letting yourself be moved and carried along?

A Candle Sacrifices Itself
It gives light through this self-sacrifice. It burns to give itself away. Jesus came as the light of the world. He sacrificed His entire life, up to and including the Cross of Calvary, so that we could have eternal life. In Philippians 2:6-8 we see that Jesus’ descent was sevenfold, like a candle that burns further and further down:

“(1) Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: (2) But made himself of no reputation [alienated; emptied; from God’s throne to a manger], (3) and took upon him the form of a servant, (4) and was made in the likeness of men [God wanted to be human]: And being found in fashion as a man, (5) he humbled himself [He bowed to authority, took on all the hardships although He was almighty], (6) and became obedient unto death [His whole life was a way of death], (7) even the death of the cross.”

Have you dedicated your life and your body, all you possess, to the point of self-sacrifice?

The Flame Points Upwards
Jesus says, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). Jesus brought the light of God to us. He glorified the Father and centered the world on God. Jesus shows us the way to God. He steers our hearts upward now, and in the resurrection we will be brought upward.

German theologian Hans-Joachim Eckstein writes: “We are still on the way to Him and have not yet arrived at our destination; but Christ Himself has long since reached out to us, so at His side we can set out with Him toward the great goal of final heavenly communion with Him.” 

The Flame Gives Warmth
Warmth does us good. It helps us relax. Warm-hearted people are comforting. You can let your guard down around them. Why did Jesus attract so many people? It wasn’t just the miracles; it was His welcoming warmth. He radiated warmth like no one else. The scribes and Pharisees were cold. They were frightening and kept their distance. With Jesus it was the other way around, and that’s how we should also be. We should transmit warmth the same way it radiates from a candle. “Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near” (Phil 4:5, CSB).

A Candle Has a Wick at Its Center
The wick is what burns to produce the flame. This is a beautiful illustration of the Holy Spirit’s desire to burn within us. Jesus was a man full of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit. “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost…” (Acts 2:4a). That’s why Paul writes, “Be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18b); and, “Quench not the Spirit” (1 Thess 5:19).

All the Candles in the World Can’t Illuminate a Darkened Heart!
Let there be light, and be a light yourself! Are you someone who points the way? Who radiates spiritual warmth? Who burns brightly for Jesus and His Gospel? Who is being consumed for the kingdom of God? Are you someone whose testimony is silent but clear?

When you blow out a candle, the wick still glows a little. This is where the Lord intervenes. He says of Himself, “A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory” (Matt 12:20; Isa 42:3).

The Apostle Paul writes, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). The divine power, which is light in and of itself and created the light to illuminate the earth; which said at the beginning of creation, “Let there be light: and there was light” (Gen 1:3), this same divine power also let light shine in our hearts when Jesus entered our lives. Our darkened hearts were illuminated by the rebirth.

“For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Eph 5:8). God created the sun to illuminate the earth and allow creation to flourish. And the Lord created us to be light, so that we would shine as children of light: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt 5:16).

Our transformation and good works point upward! This is the message of a lit candle.

Midnight Call - 12/2022

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