“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2
Christmas reminds us that the only answer to darkness is light. For some, darkness is a choice—they seem to enjoy it. Plato used to talk about them as those who turn from the light to live in relative degrees of darkness. He observed that some people don’t want to face the light. Others have lived in the darkness for so long they wouldn’t leave it if they could. They’re like the convict who was brought out of the Bastille in Paris where he had been confined for years. As soon as he emerged, instead of joyfully welcoming his liberty, he begged his captors to take him back. It had been so long since he had seen sunshine that his eyes couldn’t endure its brightness. He had become a captive of the dark.
Regardless of the degree of darkness, it is into darkness that THE Light has come.
That’s what putting candles in windows symbolize. Do you know who first put candles in their windows? The Irish.
When the Irish Catholics were being persecuted by the English, one of the clear prohibitions was against assembling for worship. The Roman Catholic churches were either closed or destroyed. The priests hid in forests and secretly visited farms and homes to say Mass under the cover of night. It was the dearest wish of every Irish family to, at least once in their lifetime, have a priest arrive on Christmas Eve to celebrate the Mass. To them, Christmas Eve was the holiest of nights. When the evening came they would leave their doors unlocked and place burning candles in the windows so that any priest who happened to be in the vicinity could be guided through the darkness to their home. Silently, the priest would enter through the unlatched door. He would be received by the devout inhabitants with tears of gratitude that their home was to become a church for Christmas.
How did the Irish Catholics get away with it? Why wouldn’t the English clamp down on such a practice? Because they didn’t know! They were in the dark. The Irish explained to them that the burning candles were in their windows to help guide Mary and Joseph to their homes. The English considered it a harmless superstition and did nothing to suppress it.
Think of it. All year long the Irish hoped a priest would visit their home at Christmas. All year long they’d hope that a priest would pierce the darkness on one night and make their home a church.
Aren’t you glad that when THE Light came it wasn’t for only one night? Aren’t you glad that when He came our hearts became a place of worship?
May walking in the Light be our choice this Christmas. May we long for a fresh visit from our great High Priest. May that be the gift for which we wish this Christmas season as we place candles in our windows this year.