traditions: the candle in the window

 “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – Jesus, John 8.12

Have you ever wondered why some put candles in their windows at Christmas? Some add these to a152beaf8a30005719b512fa168cf573 their regular décor (you know which houses I’m talking about – those lit up like the fourth of July at Christmas) and others have just single candles (lights) lighting up their windows as their sole decoration. What is the purpose?

During my research for this entry, I found the following Austrian legend:

Once upon a time, many, many years ago, an old cobbler and his wife lived in a tiny cottage at the edge of a village in Austria. This humble shoemaker had a few worldly possessions; but whatever he owned, he shared with others.

Symbolic of this generosity and love of mankind was the lighted candle he placed in the window of his cottage. Every night this light would shine forth as a welcomed sign of hospitality to any weary traveler who might be in search of shelter.

Over a period of several years, war, famine, and near destruction fell on this little village – but never once did the candle fail to send its beams as a message of hope and cheer to all.

Hardships and losses came to the village as a result of war. Loved sons were killed in battle; crops failed and animals starved for want of grain.

And yet, through all this trouble, the little cobbler and his wife suffered far less than the other villagers. It seemed that there was a magical charm guarding these two. Discouraged and weary, the village peasants gathered together one evening to discuss the cobbler’s fortune.

“Surely there is something special about him; he is always spared from our misfortunes. What does he do that we do not do?”

“Perhaps it is his little candle,” said one of the villagers. “Let us put a candle in our window, too, and see if that is the mysterious charm.”

Now it so happened that the day of the peasants meeting was the day before Christmas and the first night that a candle was lit in the window of every home was Christmas Eve.

The candles burned all that night. When morning came, it seemed as though a miracle had occurred. A soft mantle of snow covered all the village and an air of hope and contentment filled the hearts of the villagers.

Before the first ray of the morning sun had cast its first gleam upon the new fallen snow, a messenger rode into the village to bring the good news – peace had come!

Tiny silver church bells chimed as the people knelt in prayer on this most wonderful morning. Never before had their been such a feeling of Christmas glory and joy as there was on this day.

The peasants were awed: “It was the candles,” they whispered. “They have brought an answer to all of our prayers. We must never again fail to light our candles on His Birthday.”

And now, many, many years later, this beautiful custom has spread all over the world – millions of candles flicker, sending forth a message of love, hope and cheer that will never grow old.

Beautiful tale, isn’t it?

I’m also reminded of a song, sung by Chris Rice – called Go Light Your World. It’s about lighting your world…about allowing Christ to be that light through you in the darkness that may surround your neighbors, your coworkers, your friends and your community:

There is a candle
in every soul
some brightly burning
some dark and cold.
There is a Spirit
Who brings a fire
ignites a candle
and makes His home

So carry your candle
Run to the darkness
Seek out the helpless
Confused and torn
Hold out your candle
for all to see it
Take your candle
and go light your world

Frustrated brother
see how he’s tried to
light his own candle
some other way.
See now your sister
she’s been robbed and lied to
still holds a candle
without a flame…

Cause we are a family
whose hearts are blazing
so let’s raise our candles
and light up the sky
praying to our Father
in the name of Jesus
make us a beacon
in darkest times…

I hear that song (and this one by Avalon) and can’t help but want to let Jesus’ light shine through me. He came to be the Light of the World. He is the Light of the World. Isn’t time that we get out of our own way and let him shine through us?

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5.16


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