When I was growing up, my family attended a candlelight service every year on Christmas Eve at our Methodist church in Vestal, NY. My siblings take great pleasure in reminding me of the year I practiced my words during what is supposed to be a very sacred, holy moment. As the congregation stood with their lit candles softly singing “Silent Night,” little Johnny pointed to the chandeliers above repeating very loudly, “Light! Light!” This was followed by “Hot! Hot!” also with volume, as he pointed to the flames dancing on the candles. I’m told everyone in the congregation was giggling. I don’t remember this, but I’m happy to know I was entertaining people at a young age.
Most scholars agree humans have gathered around the fire for at least the last 400,000 years. It’s not surprising that many of our traditions and holidays involve the lighting of candles. One candle is lit for each of the eight days of Hanukkah and the seven days of Kwanzaa. Birthday cakes have as many candles as the years we are willing to admit. In the final moments of a candlelight service, the flame is passed to each person in attendance. For those who celebrate Christmas and enjoy singing Christmas carols but have never attended a candlelight service, I encourage you to attend one next year. Candlelight services at Unity of Houston are especially beautiful. It’s not the same as being there in person, but for a taste of the experience, click this link to watch a video on the Unity of Houston Facebook page. All of the music was great, and the three tenors singing “O Holy Night” about an hour and fifteen minutes into the video is a “must see.”
As in years past, to accommodate all the Houstonians who enjoy this holiday tradition, Unity had three candlelight services. I sat with dear friends and simply experienced the first one, then served as an usher and candle lighter for the second and third. I felt blessed to be immersed in that powerful energy and phenomenal music three times! At the second service, my usher position was all the way in the back. It was a sight to behold when Rev. Michael invited everyone to raise their candle high to symbolize the light we all carry. Hundreds of flickering flames illuminated the darkened sanctuary and gratitude illuminated my heart to witness such beauty.
For the third service, my assigned usher seat was closer to the front in the center section. When the service began, I was surprised to see two empty seats next to me. Suddenly, my mind raced back to an experience from seventeen years ago when I first started attending Unity on the Bay in Miami. The sanctuary was usually filled to capacity, but on Father’s day there was one empty seat next to me. I decided to imagine my dad sitting there. He made his transition when I was seven, so I didn’t have many Father’s Days with him in person. That day I absolutely felt his presence. As my spiritual life began to blossom, so did this new way of being in relationship with my dad.
With two empty seats next to me on Christmas Eve, I decided to imagine my dad and my mom, who is now also in Spirit, sitting there enjoying the service with me. Immediately, tears began to well up in my eyes and tingles went all through my body. I felt their loving presence so strongly. A Course in Miracles calls this a holy instant, and what a miraculous Christmas gift it was. This experience demonstrated the truth of a passage we read the night before in our Miracle Monday group:
In the holy instant the condition of love is met, for minds are joined without the body’s interference, and where there is communication there is peace. The Prince of Peace was born to re-establish the condition of love by teaching that communication remains unbroken even if the body is destroyed, provided that you see not the body as the necessary means of communication.
“Christmas as the End of Sacrifice” ~ T-15.XI.7:1-2
Wishing each of you a New Year filled with miracles and love!