ADVENT I, 2009
Light one candle to watch for Messiah.
Let the light banish darkness.
God will bring salvation to Israel;
God fulfills His promise.
(With One Voice, Hymn #630)
We light a candle to start the Advent
season. Let us reflect on the simplicity,
yet tremendous, deep significance of this
There are probably few religious ri-
tuals as old and as common to the human
race as lighting a candle. Since ancient
times the light of a candle has symbolized
God’s presence, joy, happiness, life, and a
spirit of celebration. Darkness, on the oth-
er hand, has meant ignorance, sin, sadness,
evil, and death.
Human beings seem to have an auto-
matic instinct to light candles to mark spe-
cial occasions. We light candles for birth-
days. Think of how Boy Scouts use can-
dles in their ceremonies. I remember
when John Lennon of the Beatles was
shot; his fans without any direction ga-
thered at his home with lit candles to keep
a vigil in remembrance of him.
The origin of candles is not known, but
there is evidence that beeswax candles
were used in Egypt as early as 3000 before
Christ was born. Most early candles were
small terracotta lamps that burned oil.
Even before Christianity, pagan religions
used candles for their religious festivals.
People burned candles in front of idols in
their homes. Candles were used in pagan
temples as part of their ceremonies. Ro-
man pagan culture also used candles in
religious practice. Lit candles were used in
religious and military processions, show-
ing the divine presence, aid, or favor of the
gods. With the development of emperor
worship, candles were also lit near his im-
age as a sign of respect and reverence.
In the Old Testament times, a perpe-
tual light was kept burning in the Temple,
until the Temple was destroyed some forty
years after the resurrection of Jesus. It in-
dicated the presence of God. In synago-
gues a lamp was kept lit near the writings