Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Shepherd’s Candle, Part 1

Dear Pilgrim,

We lit the third candle in our Advent wreath, and basked in the growing illumination. The Shepherd’s candle, pink candle of Joy, it blushes with pulsing adrenaline. Rosy and healthy, laughing and panting from exercise, perspiration dripping down its stout frame. Its life wastes before our eyes, but what triumphant demise!

It’s nothing special, a wad of wax and some string, melted into shape, then melted out of shape, till it evaporates or cascades into useless puddles onto the wreath and table. Simple, inexpensive, basic: it lives to be consumed as a memorial of another’s life. Significant only for what it represents, not for what it possesses inherently; still, it melts away merrily.

Why did the Shepherds have so much joy? Why is their candle different from all the others: that tacky pink that clashes with our decor and insults our sense of refined, contemporary design?

Tacky shepherds—low, odd-ball-ish, smelly, ignorant of life’s finer pleasures, bankrupt of education and station and the ability to better themselves—somehow, they possessed this joy. Children brushed aside, shooed to lowly, simple tasks, out of the way, out in the quiet lonely fields.

The soul sighs: so what Hope is there to keep us going? What Love can spur us to become something more than we have been? What can make this dreary life significant? What if we never can alter what we do?

“Do not be afraid,” he said first. Fear calculates the future without God.

Fear believes good will not come.

Maybe that’s why he said, “I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”

We have to know that God is fundamentally, ultimately good . . . we see the opposite in our world and in our hearts. We need assurance of what we can barely whisper, wishing it to be true, unsure if it can be . . . knowing we are utterly undone if it is a mirage. What is the point, if there is no good?

We just don’t expect God’s revelation to come.

We don’t look for Him.

Maybe that’s why He shakes us out of our minds with angelic choruses bellowing His reality. “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: you will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

These stirrings, these cravings, these groans and bellows and heavenly fireworks . . . these mark the journey of Joy, and take us deeper yet . . . .

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