KOH2RVA: Day 99

pink candleToday was the Third Sunday of Advent, the Sunday of Joy.

A group of International students from VCU had been invited to light the Advent candle. They processed slowly down the aisle as the Youth Girls’ Ensemble sang. They mounted the steps and gathered around the Advent wreath. They held the lit taper to the pink candle and we all watched and waited for the wick to catch flame.

It didn’t happen.

I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so much suspense in church. I kept watching, willing the wick to catch. The student who was holding the taper seemed to have it in just the right place, but even so another student reached up to help. They adjusted the flame, moved it ever so slightly back and forth, but no matter what they did they couldn’t seem to get it to work. Finally, the song ended, and they had to step down from the chancel, the pink candle still unlit.

It seemed shockingly symbolic, that on a day when most of us were still grieving over the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the candle of joy wouldn’t stay lit, almost as if God himself were saying, “How can the flame of joy dance on its wick on a day like this?”

Maybe those students didn’t fail. Maybe they lit the candle over and over again and God kept snuffing it out, whispering, “No, not today.”

You can’t really schedule joy, and unfortunately you can’t really schedule grief. It comes when it comes. And it came today:

The Third Sunday of Advent.

9 thoughts on “KOH2RVA: Day 99

  1. I agree that, after all that happened Friday in Connecticut, maybe today was not the best time to light the candle of joy. Maybe God was “snuffing” the candle out but, then again, maybe God’s tears over the slain children of Sandy Hook Elementary School was keeping the flame from staying lit. Whatever the case, the twenty children who were slain this past Friday should have been allowed to live long and happy lives, but that was not to be. As difficult it is to bring anything positive out of this event, it is reassuring to know that the children are now and forever protected from harm and are in a much better place.

  2. As I mentioned on facebook, I thought the same thing as it was happening. I felt bad for the students who were doing the best they could and yet, I wondered if it wasn’t meant to be. Something happened in that service for me today, something I wasn’t anticipating. Between the child dedication, the youth choir singing, and the prayers, I felt this sense of peace. There was no doubt in my mind that God was there today. The sadness was there, the pain, the hurt, and the anger, but the peace that only God could bring in the midst, seemed to be there as well. Not only at First Baptist, but all over as people were praying at that very hour and lighting the Candle of Joy, there was this peace. It felt good to be there today. Not good really, but right. What I pray is that even in the slightest of wind, the tiniest of breaths, and through the glow of the candles of peace and hope that were lit, that the people of Newtown could feel God too.

  3. Thanks Jim! I so appreciate those wonderful International students who patiently attempted to light the candle. They showed up and did everything right. Everything worked in rehearsal with ease. I do not know why the candle did not light. But, I am proud of these students who presence in worship service was in itself illuminating for many of us.

  4. I was watching the service on tv, and it just seemed that God was indeed sending a message: “Joy, not today. Today is a day to mourn.”

  5. On Saturday at 5pm Diane and I attended a worship service at our local church. After all the news, we felt a need to be in community with believers. Your comments are helpfull Jim. Steven Netcott

  6. One further thought to my earlier posting. Luke 18:16 (NIV) says that Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” This evening twenty little souls are resting safely in the arms of that same Jesus and, as hard as it may be for their parents to absorb this thought at the present time, they can rest assured that their little children will never face harm again. Hopefully, at some point that thought will bring some comfort to their grieving hearts. Considering the fact that twenty children were lost on Friday, I thought that it was more than appropriate that two little children were being dedicated in today’s 11 o’clock service. Even after tragedies like what that happened this past Friday, life goes on and we go on with the hope that the two children dedicated today will be allowed to live long and happy lives and that all children will not have to face the senseless violence that took the lives of twenty of the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School..

  7. I am still in shock about what happened in Connecticut and praying for the affected families. Even so, as I read the increasing demands for gun control, I will share that while I do not even own a weapon (I simply pray for God and God’s angels to protect my family, friends, church family and me), it seems incredible to me that people focus on weapons. That needs to be changed. People need to focus on the PEOPLE who commit these horrible acts. The time to stop a murder is NOT when the weapon is being used, it is MONTHS even YEARS before the act occurs. Instead of a cry for gun control (which would be useless, then only criminals would have guns), cry out for better mental health care and intervention for those who might use the guns. Cry out against all the violent video games and movies which, despite assertions to the contrary, DO have an effect on young people. Cry out against our culture of violence. Cry out against influences against unstable families which breed violent people. May God help us and put our focus on these matters where it belongs – on the PEOPLE who commit these acts and on getting them the help they need!

  8. I am sorry, you’re wrong. God’s love and joy can always overcome grief. I refuse to see “the will of God” in the coincidence that a candle would not light. The implication here is that the thousands of births, hundreds of marriages, millions of precious personal moments are somehow not blessed by God for the rest of the world/universe as we mull over the fate of twenty eight deaths. This kind of pseudo Christianity is just sickening; God’s love is infinite and there were literally hundreds of deaths in the past few days that were just as senseless, just as cruel: those deaths just didn’t get the media coverage that Newtown now has. This blog/post is just self-serving, insincere sympathy for an American (though not unique) tragedy.

  9. Mr. Wells, you are certainly entitled to your opinion, but I disagree with your implication. Certainly, God is moved by the deaths of all of His loved ones. Scripture supports this – both Old and New Testaments. I don’t believe the author intended to infer otherwise. But to be so judgmental-sounding regarding the post of brother in Christ is certainly not helpful…especially at this time.

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