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Whether your big family celebration is Christmas or Christmas Eve, Christmas is only the beginning, the start of a year long celebration of Light, Shalom, the Word.

We had a very special gift this year – Christmas on Sunday. Not only did I get my favorite Christmas Eve candlelight service, I also had a special Christmas morning sermon by Pastor Helen. She presented us with two Christmas stories – the one we all know from Luke but also the story from John.

The light of one candle.

Christ is the light, a gift of structure, a patterned design sent by God to combat the darkness.

What darkness? Read the headlines. Watch the news. The players may be different, but the concerns are much the same.

Poverty. Unemployment. Fear. Prejudice. War. Depression.

No, you alone can’t over come these things and it would be simplistic for me to suggest that you could. But you can carry the Light of Christ with you into the Darkness. One small candle. Drop a coin in a tin cup. Put a canned good into a barrel. Invite someone to dinner in your home even if you are serving something simple like soup and sandwiches. Write someone a note telling them about the difference they have made in your life.

Seventeen candles -- quite a difference.

None of these actions is huge. They are small acts. Tiny candles in a sea of darkness. But think about lighting one small candle each week. One tiny act, 52 times. Now think about the light given off by 52 small candles.

What if I did this? What if you did this? How far would Christ’s light reach into the darkness?


Like Ruth, I’m big on service to others.  In highschool, I was a candy striper at a local hospital.  I’ve helped with Scouts, and worked a local pow wow.
Service is our opportunity to connect what we learn in scriptural study and meditation to those around us.  Study lays the theory.    Service gives us the hands-on experience that cements the knowledge.

One thing that Ruth asked us to consider was whether or not we should do service if we can’t do it with a smile.  My answer?  It depends.

I recently quit a service position in my church.  Initially, I loved serving on this high-energy committee.  I looked forward to the meetings because I knew that I would come out of them excited about our next project.  Eventually, my enthusiasm waned.  Going to the meetings was like going to my well-woman exam.  Actually, I’d rather go see my extremely perky doctor.  Since I was no longer smiling, I knew it was time to quit.  Yes, I prayed about it, and then I quit.

But other times service doesn’t bring a smile to your face yet it is still something you need to do.  Once when I prayed on what I could do to serve my church, the message came through loud and clear.  “Join the choir.”

Short, simple and to the point.

I tried to ignore it.  Then one Sunday the choir master made a bee-line towards me after the service just to ask if I’d join.  Subtle?  Hardly, but I was being dense because I hate getting up in front of the congregation.

Hate it.

This would not be service with a smile on my face.  After all it is really hard to smile in the midst of a panic attack.  Once I decided to join the choir, I had panic attacks every time the choir sang and I wasn’t even in the choir yet.  Rehearsals?  More panic attacks.  Actually getting up to sing?  Did you know that when you’re scared enough, your field of vision shrinks?

I wasn’t smiling.  I was sweating.  And shaking.  And getting really pale according to those around me.  Maybe I could get out of this.  I went to the choir master who sings in the local opera theater.

He offered me a trash can.  He checked on me every now and again.  He mooched mints off me.  But not once did he offer to let me off the hook.

Service isn’t always easy.  Sometimes it rocks you back on your heels and you really can’t smile because if you do you might get sick.  But if you choose your service opportunities prayerfully, you’ll get as much out of it as you give.  Me?  When I read about Moses trying to get out of leading the people, I have a pretty good idea what he was going through.  My own experiences have brought this bit of learning to life like nothing else could.  It isn’t the lesson I expected to get, but apparently it was the one that I needed to learn.

What’s next?

I’m not 100% certain I want to know.



Have a Mary Little Christmas

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