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Lift Your Light High: A reading for an Advent candlelight service

John Bush explains, “This candlelight service has been used here at Northbrook Presbyterian for at least twenty-five years; it follows an elegant holiday feast held at the church. I integrated this ‘service of light’ into an Advent Service of Evening Prayer.”

[The congregation are holding unlighted candles. Two readers, also holding candles, gather at the Advent wreath, facing the congregation. The appropriate Advent candles are already lighted.]

Reader 1: And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness.

Reader 2: Christ is the light of all lights. We associate candles with Advent and Christmas. Glowing candles are twinkling and radiant in our homes, in the center of our tables. In our churches we see the Advent candles of hope, peace, joy, and love. Wherever we see them, candles may be a silent witness to that glorious light of Bethlehem.

Reader 1: Christians are the candles by which the world is made bright with hope and spiritual confidence. Each candle must be lighted from another.

[Reader 1 lights his or her candle from the Advent wreath, then lights the candle of Reader 2.]

Reader 2: Though one candle may not shed much light, many candles will brightly light any dark place. This speaks to our need for Christian community, for unity within the household of God. For as Christ said to his followers, “You are the light of the world.” The witness of a solitary Christian seems small indeed, but it represents one point from which the darkness is pierced by light. Together as a community of God’s people, the church, we bring the light of each to become the light of all. Together we share the light of Christ, lifting the darkness of doubt, despair, or fear that shrouds the world. That, indeed, is such a light that the world cannot extinguish.

[Two additional people come forward, and their candles are lighted by Readers 1 and 2. These four then proceed to light the congregation’s candles. (Be sure that one person is assigned to light the organist’s candle.) When all candles are lighted, the four return to the front and stand facing the congregation.]

Reader 1: Jesus Christ identified himself as the Light of the world. Jesus also told his followers, the Church, that we too are to be the light of the world.

Reader 2: “Neither do you light a candle and hide it under a bushel, but put it on a candlestick so that it gives light to all that are in the house.” [Lifts the lighted candle.] Let us lift our candles high. As the light of the world, let us accept our call to take it out into all the world.

Reader 1: “Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these, my friends, you have done it unto me.”

[The congregation sings “Silent Night, Holy Night.” As the hymn ends, the four leaders extinguish their candles and recess in silence.]