Candle-light services on Christmas Eve are some of the most beautiful spectacles I’ve experienced in the church. Candle-lighting is something that I will always associate with church and I find it funny that I’ve written all of the youth digest write-ups for Advent so far without actually mentioning candle-lighting. This Sunday we lit the 4th candle of Advent, representing Joy, and tonight we will light the 5th candle of Advent, the Christ Candle, representing the coming Jesus Christ, our Lord and savior.
I grew up in our church in Illinois as an acolyte, not by choice, but through parental volunteerism. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wear any weird robes or get special training to light candles. I was a boy in elementary school, I knew how to light things on fire. I did have to learn how to work the candle-lighter with the taper and a candle-snuffer, but once that was finished, it was just a matter of walking down the aisle to light the candles at the beginning of the service and walking down the aisle to put all the candles out at the end of the service. I did the acolyte thing so often on Sunday mornings that the entire process was instinctual; I could do it in my sleep.
Christmas Eve services were very different. There were so many candles to light on the alter and some, the Advent candles, that I wasn’t supposed to light. Plus, I had to go around to get all the rows started on the congregation’s little individual candles. Christmas Eve services were hard work as an acolyte. I even had to stay up late for the midnight service. The one that ended, technically, on Christmas morning. So here I was, during one such fateful Christmas Eve midnight service. I had finished lighting all the rows and I had returned to my seat in the choir loft, behind the pulpit via one of those sneaky side doors so as not to walk right in front of the pastor. I took my seat, lit the last little candle, my candle, and I put out my candle-lighter.
I then fell asleep holding my little candle.
I nodded in and out of sleep in a jerky enough motion that I caught the attention of the entire congregation, but no one was impolite enough to laugh-out-loud, so the pastor never turned around to see what was going on behind him. I’m told that I both thoroughly embarrassed and thoroughly horrified my mother, the likes of which I’ve never been able to accomplish again. Apparently the highlight of that midnight Christmas Eve service was watching to see if a tired little boy would accidentally light himself on fire in his sleep.
Thankfully, hot wax dripping onto my pants was enough to wake me up, but my little power nap was enough to energize an equally sleepy congregation.
This is one of my favorite little Christmas stories and I hope that it brought you some joy on this wonderful Christmas Eve. As we celebrate Christ’s entry into our world this week, join me in soaking up all the joy that you can and sharing all the joy that you can. Christ, our savior is born. Indeed, this is good news of great joy. Share that joy and Christ’s message of love and salvation.
R. H. Karn