Falling snow paved my walk to our village church on Christmas Eve long ago.
I was the new pastor of a small New England church. I expected the Light of the World to visit us as we celebrated Jesus’ birth. I prepared early for a full house of worshippers at my first Christmas Eve service. Life could not have been better—until it wasn’t.
The woman who baked Jesus’ birthday cake in the shape of a cross arrived early. We were celebrating Jesus’ birthday, and He should have a cake. I expounded on the idea with the thought, “Why don’t we conclude the service with everyone lighting their candles as we sing ‘Silent Night?’ Then we’ll proceed to the front of the church and put our candles in the cake.” My idea seemed bright until peace on earth almost became hell in church.
Two hundred souls crowded into the church that night. Children fidgeted during Scripture readings. People sang Christmas carols with gusto while angels sang harmony. Ushers distributed the communion elements, and everyone partook. The Christmas Eve service seemed perfect, and the time arrived for the grand finale.
Directing people toward the four-foot-long birthday cake, I gave the instructions: “Ushers, turn out the lights and ignite the candle of each person. Let’s sing, ‘Silent Night’ as we pass by the cake.”
The radiant glow grew with intensity as people placed their candle in the shining cake. Two hundred wax candles accumulated, and the cake transformed from beaming to blazing. As the wax melted, liquid fire flowed off the cake onto the floor. I thought, Lord, I’m going to burn down the church!
Miraculously, the fire went out as soon as the flames hit the floor—no one fried that night. “Praise God in the highest,” the angels surely sang. The ushers flicked the lights on, and the parishioners exited, glad to be alive.
I’m thankful God’s grace kept us from burning up that night. I’m reminded that Jesus came to save sinners of whom I am chief. I learned Christmas is not about candles, cakes, or carols, but entirely about a Savior who became one of us.
I went home a humbler man as I realized God was preparing me for the birth of His Son in my heart.
Choose to focus on Jesus this Christmas, and be careful with your candles.
(Photo courtesy of pixabay.)
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