Matthew 1:18-25 (NRSV)
Verse 18Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Verse 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. Verse 20But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. Verse 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." Verse 22All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: Verse 23"Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us." Verse 24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, Verse 25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
Candlelight has come to play a significant role in my spiritual life. “We light a candle to remind us that God is with us,” my spiritual director always begins as we start our time together each month. When I am struck with silence and unable to articulate the contents of my heart, I look to the dancing flame, not so much for the words to say, but the comfort to know God is listening and the courage to hear what God is saying to me.
The invitation to this practice, while recent, was always there as an unnamed tradition, especially during the Christmas Eve service that I attended as a child. Once a year, the ushers handed out slender white candles with paper collars to match and all of us—young and old alike—waited with hushed excitement at the miracle about to unfold amongst us.
The lights were shut off and we would wait in darkness as the pastor lit a single candle and passed along its flame, growing from parishioner to visitor, from grandparent to grandchild. In minutes, under the hum of Silent Night, every face shone with the light of God’s promised Emmanuel, God with us.
Dear God, wrap us in the comfort of your eternal light and the presence of your Son, Jesus Christ. In your promise and assurance to be always near we pray, Amen.