The little girl wiggled a little impatiently. Her favorite part of the service was coming up.
She had been waiting through the singing (she liked the singing), the readings (a little dry to her point of view), the sermon (though she listened attentively like her mother told her to, she didn’t quite understand everything), and now the candles were being handed out.
Oh would they just hurry up! she thought.
Finally she got her candle, white, unlit, and with a green and white paper wax-catcher (though she didn’t know what it was for). Everyone in her row stood up, her parents, siblings, and the couple who had arrived late and snuck into the end seats. They followed the people from the row in front of them into a slightly chaotic snaggle of people all trying to line up against the wall. Finally, after much shuffling, each person had a place. Everyone else had moved too and formed a circle around the outside of the chairs. The lights were flipped off, and the only glow came from the four candles on the stage, three purple and one pink.
The pastor up front began to speak again, and the little girl watched him intently, as he picked up the lit pink candle (which was also much larger than the one she held, having sat on the stage for four weeks). He slowly descended down the steps to stand in the line making the circle complete. As he finished speaking, the person to each side of him lit their candle from his. The person beside each of them did the same. And again, and again. Slowly but surely the lit candles advanced, moving around the circle, lighting up the sanctuary.
For a time she couldn’t see the progress of the lighting on her side, so she watched the other side. They seemed to be progressing quite quickly, and finally she couldn’t wait any longer and stepped forward to look down the line beside her. It was almost her turn! She stepped back, a grin on her face and eyes wide with excitement, at the same moment her mother guided her back into place.
Her brother beside her lit his candle from their older sister’s candle. It was her turn! He bent down a little, holding his candle straight, so she could light hers. She felt her mother take and guide her arm, tipping her candle into his. With a silent phoof her candle was lit. Her mother guided her to holding it straight and she watched in awe as the flame flickered.
Her mother whispered a warning about keeping it upright as she lit her own candle. The little girl was now less interested in the progress of the lighting, as it passed on to her father, her other sister, the janitor and his wife, and on till it met up with the other side’s lighting somewhere in the middle of the back wall. She was intent on her candle, her flame. She breathed a small sigh of contentment … and blew out her candle.
She turned to her mother, worry and disappointment in her eyes. Her mother gave her own small sigh and rueful smile. She lit her daughters candle again from her own, and, as she handed it back, carefully pulled her daughters straight brown hair back behind her shoulders. The little girl shivered as her mother moved her hair, her mothers hand brushing her ticklish neck. She tried very hard to breathe shallowly, so as to not put out her candle again.
The candles had all been lit by then, and the pastor announced that they would all sing Silent Night. She sang gustily at first, knowing well the first verse, holding her candle out in both hands so as to not drop or blow it out. Then during the second and third verses she mumbled and hummed along. Then, when they’d finished, the pastor asked if anyone knew this different song and would sing it while they sang Silent Night again.
Everyone started singing again and the little girl sang the first verse, though slightly distractedly as she watched the melting wax drip down her candle the the wax catcher. At the second verse her attention was caught by something that sounded different. It was the people singing the other song. She couldn’t make out what the words were but it was beautiful and she didn’t sing for listening. At the third verse again more people had joined in the other song, but something hot touched her finger and she nearly cried out, pulling one hand away.
Her mother noticed her daughter jerk, and the candle now absentmindedly tilted at a sharp angle, and gently relived it from her, the wax not hot to her life worn fingers. The little girl was disappointed, but secretly glad to not have any more hot wax drip on her. The song finished and the pastor said some words of dismissal and the electric lights clicked on. The mother allowed her daughter to blow out the candle then returned it to the collection box.
The little girl was happy. She had participated in the annual Candle light service. Now she was tired and ready to go home, for tomorrow they would open presents.
This is a story about our annual candle light service held Christmas Eve.
The other song is Peace, Peace.
(Featured Image by http://chrislanger.blogspot.com/)