The Light of the World
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’” – John 8:12 (NRSV)
Since ancient times, light and fire have reminded people that God is here with us. During the Exodus, the LORD went before the children of Israel “in a pillar of cloud by day…and a pillar of fire by night, to give them light…” (Exodus 13:21). The instructions for building a sanctuary for the LORD included a lampstand “…to give light on the space in front of it” (Exodus 25:37).
Images of light and darkness are used throughout the Gospels. John, notes “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (1:5) and that in Jesus Christ, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (1:9).
Early in Christian history, worship took place in the evening after the work of the day had been completed. Lamps and candles served the very practical purpose of providing light for those who gathered. That light also provided a vivid reminder of God’s presence in worship, and that Jesus Christ is the light of the world.
During this season of Lent, we have been having the Acolytes enter during the musical prelude, bringing in light and lighting candles as a visible reminder that God is always present with us and of Jesus’ coming into our world and our lives. It also serves as an indication that our focus is turning toward worship. The candles are lit prior to our first acts of worshiping together – the Greeting and Hymn of Praise, and remain lit throughout the worship service. The two candles on the altar symbolize Jesus’ two natures, human and divine. The use of two candles may also represent the Epistles (the letters in the New Testament) and the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John).
At the close of the service, we receive the benediction, the candles are extinguished, and the Acolytes carry the light to lead us out as a reminder that we are to carry Christ’s light into the world in which we serve.
This is a slight change from our previous order of worship. By lighting the candles earlier and extinguishing them later, these reminders of God’s presence are visible for the entire service. The current order of worship also reduces the prolonged standing at the beginning of the service, which was a problem for many. Thanks for the many positive comments and for the concerns expressed over this change.