Posted by: minnow | December 13, 2015

The Third Candle

One of my favorite passages in scripture is from 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…”And verse 19 follows reminding us: “We love because He first  loved us.”

I have had to remind myself of these principles a lot in recent weeks.  Heck, let’s be honest–in the past several years.  With growing animosity from tea partiers and the religious right toward people of whom they disapprove it has been important for me to remember the power of love.

As tension mounts due to the situation in Syria and my fellow Americans respond on FB and twitter with fear mongering about the refugees, I have had to tell myself they are afraid.  They must not know perfect love or they would not be so afraid.  I have had to remind myself to be kind, to show grace, to try as gently as I can to pull back the blinders–exposing their fear and revealing Christ’s love as an alternative.

Still, I am puzzled and saddened by how many fear-filled people claim to know God. Why do they paint such ugly pictures and broadcast such dire warnings about opening ourselves up to the potential danger from terrorists who could possibly slip into our country along side the hungry children, worried mothers, grief stricken fathers, and war-worn grandparents that are the true faces of the refugees?

This morning I listened to a recording on FB posted by a proud mama of her daughter bring down the house with her rendition of “Go Tell It On the Mountain”.  It was a wonderful moment in Church for me.  The recording was a couple years old, however.  My FB friend’s daughter “came out” after the recording was made and is no longer allowed to sing in that particular fellowship.  I find it a shame that such God given talent would be rejected because fear and condemnation rule our behavior.

What understanding do we lack?  Are our differences really so great or have we simply not been taught to see the face of Christ in the lost, the wounded, the marginalized, the other?  One of my favorite scenes in the movie Schindler’s List is when Schindler, a catholic German who had become rich off the war stops the Rabbi character in the middle of work and mentions that the sun is going down.  Then he reminds the Rabbi that it is Friday.  Then Schindler asks if the Rabbi should be getting ready for the Sabbath.  Finally, he offers the Rabbi a bottle of wine.  The recognition of otherness in this scene is profound.  At the end of the movie one of the workers “donates” the gold from one of his teeth so the prisoners can make a ring they give to Schindler.  It is inscribed with words from the Talmud which read: “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.” The changed heart of a German Nazi was used to spare 1200 Jews from the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

Today (12/13) is the third Sunday in the Christian celebration of Advent.  Some call it the Shepherd’s candle while others say it symbolizes Joy.  I think it is fitting to think of it as the candle of Others.  The Jewish leaders were looking for a Messiah but they did not recognize the Savior they were sent.  Their legalism and self-righteous interpretations of the scriptures did not allow them to see in the face of a baby God’s plan for the world.  Yet, when the shepherds were invited to share in the joy of Christ’s birth Luke 2 tells us they immediately went to investigate and were amazed by what they found.  I believe the simplicity of their faith and their lowly stature in society worked together to make them the perfect recipients of the Good News.  Their otherness opened their hearts and made them vulnerable to God’s plan.

The question before us this Sunday is simple.  With which characters in the story of Christ’s birth do we wish to align?  Are we in step with the religious leaders of the day–unwilling to see beyond the tenants of the scriptures we have embraced for centuries in order to purify our lives, the books of the law we have poured over night and day so we might discern God’s will, and our long-held understand of what the Bible says?  Or, are we willing to walk with the shepherds, in the middle of the dailiness of their lives, jolted to a new level of awareness, infused with a new hope and able–not to reject what they have been taught but rather–to hold it a little more lightly, share space in their world for the more of God.  I believe, even as my enemy wishes to annihilate me, my God calls me to love my enemy.  And, love does not reject.  Love does not shut out.  Love does not condemn. Love gives hope and margins and open arms.  Love gives joy.  And joy, when it is fed by love is never, ever afraid.




  1. Well put. What an enlightening point about believing in God but being fearful in everyday life. When Jesus spoke about being saved, that’s exactly the thing in me I think he was aiming at. Thanks for the read! Shelby in Montana

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