When I was worshiping at my parents’ home church in Iowa City, IA, on Christmas Eve, one of the most touching moments during the service was when we all lit candles while singing “Silent Night,” which is a beloved tradition in many churches around the world. And I got to thinking about what makes it so special to people and to me.
What I attribute it to is what I call “the candle effect.“
The light of candles in a darkened space instantly makes us feel warm and happy inside and has a holiness about it that cannot be replicated in other ways by such things as battery-powered lights, etc. The flickering and waving of the candle light has the ability to make us sense the power of God in our midst and reminds us of the fact that Christ is indeed the Light of the world who has come into this dark world of sin to save us.
The experience then of seeing many candles lit around us and the communal singing of a soft and beautiful hymn that speaks of a holy night when Christ the Savior is born reinforces for us as a people of God the reality that Christ has come and that we are all in this together and recipients of that love and we are eternally blessed by it.
Earlier in the season, I had attended a choir concert that I go to every year and that normally had a section where we lit candles and sang carols. But this year, out of concerns for safety I am assuming, there was no candlelighting to go along with the caroling, which made the service somehow less meaningful to me.
When have you experienced the candle effect (or the lack thereof) in your church? And what has been your response?
My sense is that the lighting of actual candles in worship is something that is fading out into obscurity and something that is seen as old-fashioned or dangerous in our technologically advanced society.
But whenever there is a tragedy of any kind (which is happening far too often of late), the very first thing that happens in response is quite often a candle vigil or the lighting of multiple votive candles as a sort of tribute to the deceased at the site of the occurrence. People know that candles can calm and soothe and ease a moment of crisis. So why does it seem that in churches, candles are becoming more and more a thing of the past?
Recently I have noticed that people are using the flashlight feature of their smartphones instead of using lighters at concerts and other venues. If the light of technology is becoming our new way to portray “the candle effect,” what does that say about our approach to our perception of the holiness of God?
What can we at Creative Communications do to reinforce that holiness of God through products that shine the Light of Christ in new and different ways to allow parishioners to experience “the candle effect”?