Candles Burning Low

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

“If I could prescribe only one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, I would prescribe silence. For even if the Word of God were proclaimed, no one would hear it; there is too much noise. Therefore, create silence.”

When Christian thinker Søren Kierkegaard made that memorable statement, he was speaking about the “modern world” of early 19th-century Europe. Just imagine if he could get a glimpse of a typical Black Friday sale in 21st-century America. “Noise” barely begins to cover it. And that’s just the beginning of an increasingly chaotic season that finds most of us running from Christmas sales to Christmas parties to Christmas pageants to Christmas concerts and other assorted Christmas-themed whatsits. It’s a nonstop, exhausting whirlwind of obligation, activity, and spending that all too often leaves us spiritually empty in what should be one of the most spiritually filling times of the year.

God can speak to us at Christmas, but life’s ever-quickening pace has made it harder and harder for him to do so. That’s why it’s imperative that we seek time to tune out the noise of the season, to find an environment where we can rest, reflect, and simply be quiet in a peaceful environment, where silence can envelop us, and the only light comes from a fire slowly dying, or from candles burning low.

What will it take to intentionally create such an environment, where you can hear God’s still, small voice without the noise of the modern world drowning it out? What is he whispering in your ear this Christmas season? Light some candles, and let them burn low. Create a little silence, and listen.

Father, give me the strength of will to make space in my life for silence, to reflect, to rest, to hear your voice.

That’s What Christmas Means to Me, My Love

All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means “God is with us”).
Isaiah 7:14 (NLT)

Candles burnin’ low
Lots of mistletoe
Lots of snow and ice
Everywhere we go
Choirs singing carols
Right outside my door
All these things and more
That’s what Christmas means to me, my love

Recognize those lyrics? You’ve probably heard them a couple dozen times just since Thanksgiving. They’re from “What Christmas Means to Me,” a catchy bit of holiday fluff first recorded in 1967 that has become a Christmas pop standard. (Numerous artists have recorded their own mostly lackluster versions, but Stevie Wonder’s original remains the definitive take.) It turns up on the soundtracks to innumerable Christmas movies, in commercials, on radio playlists. And with good reason: it’s hard not to be taken in by its bright melody and appealing good cheer.

The verses of the song reflect the kinds of images that define Christmas for most people—family, friends, glittering lights, timeless music, cold winds, and hot cocoa. There’s nothing wrong with those things, of course. Who doesn’t love mistletoe and carols? But it is a view of Christmas that is firmly planted in the world’s view of the holiday, a view that only reluctantly acknowledges pregnant virgins and babies sleeping in troughs and shepherds who see heavenly visitors singing praise to their creator. “What Christmas Means to Me” may mention “Silent Night” in passing, but the events of that night never come up.

That said, if you’re willing to dig a little deeper, the deceptively simple lyrics can take on meanings that the songwriters never intended or imagined, pointing not at a commerce-saturated worldly holiday, but at a holy time in which God stepped into history to save us from ourselves. Each day this week, we’ll use a lyric from this song to examine our hearts. What does Christmas mean to you? More importantly, what does it mean to God? How does he want to use Christmas to effect lasting change in you?

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