Main Content

Carols by Candlelight Devotionals

Sadly, the ice storm kept us from gathering for Carols by Candlelight this year.  Below are the reflections written for the worship by TCU Students.  They are moving and profound.  I invite you to take a moment, slow down, get some Christmas Carols playing, and let the words speak to you.  Hope, peace, joy and love are born at Christmas.  May they be born in your life and in our world anew this Advent season.
Advent blessings,
Rev. Allison Lanza

TCU Carols by Candlelight 2013
Advent Reflections

The psalmist declares, “I put my hope in God all day long”. Paul prays that “the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” At Christmas hope is born into our world.
Hope is more than wishful thinking. Hope is what gets us out of bed each morning. Hope is what drives us to keep trying. Anne Lamott says that “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come “ Hope is the belief, the knowledge deep in our bones, that the light is about to break through the darkness. Children know best how to hope. So, it makes sense that at Christmas we celebrate God being born as a child.
Jesus is the hope of God with skin on.
Hope is born into the world on Christmas. Hope is so often placed into the context of tomorrow. “Maybe tomorrow will be better.” “There’s always next time.” “We’ll try again next year.” But hope is not reserved exclusively for the future.
It can mean a lot in a period of trial to cling to a message of hoping in the future, of hope that what is to come will bring peace. But that hope does not raise us out of our despair; it only promises that today’s despair will end.
Hope was born into the world on Christmas in the person of Jesus Christ. That small baby did not fix problems, didn’t promise tomorrow would bring new light and rest for the weary heart. He brought hope in his very person. Jesus is hope. Jesus is hope now. To live in hope with Christ is to do so not with the wish that the future will be less bad than the present, but it is to find comfort and assurance during this present time simply because of the knowledge and assurance of God’s love. I find myself calling my mother when things go wrong not because she can solve my problems but because somehow hearing her wisdom makes things better, gives
me rest. Her calming voice gives me confidence, stabilizes my worries when they’re out of control, and reminds me of who I am and how loved I am. We similarly find hope in the presence of Christ, born into the world at Christmas and asking to reenter our hearts in this blessed season, not because of the solution offered or the improvement he will bring us but simply because he is here. He is co-­‐present, fully with us. Lived together with him, our lives are full, and our hope—our
comfort, our assurance, and our rest—can find peace in the one newly born and newly beckoning, today.
The psalmist calls us to “turn from evil and do good, to seek peace and pursue it.” Isaiah says, “how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of them who bring good news, who proclaim peace” Jesus proclaims, “blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Maya Angelou, in her Christmas poem, Amazing Peace spoke these words. “in our joy, we think we hear a whisper. At first it is too soft. Then only half heard. We listen carefully as it gathers strength. We hear a sweetness. The word is peace. It is loud now. Louder than the explosions of bombs. We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.It is what we have hungered for. Not just the absence of war. But true Peace. …A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies, security for our beloveds and their beloveds. We clap hands and welcome the peace of Christmas. “
Peace is more than the absence of war. The peace of God looks like swords beat into plow shares. It looks like the lion lying down with the lamb and a little child leading them. At Christmas the prince of Peace is born into our world.
At Christmas, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, we talk about peace. It’s only natural. “Peace on Earth, Good will to all men” we exclaim. But it is important to remember what actually happened that night. People, wise ones anyway, traveled from far to bring gifts to a child: a child that they knew was really a gift to the world. And they would find him. He would be wrapped as presents should be and underneath the swaddling clothes there would be peace. Peace was born into earth that day. Peace was not an ordinary present. It wasn’t a sweater to outgrow or a toy that we grow tired of playing with after the holidays. It was, and is, a living thing. A person.
I do believe that peace was born into the world that night thousands of years ago, but I also believe that if it is to be alive on earth today then it has to be as it was that night: within a person. A human being, and thats what we are. If there is peace on earth, then it has to beus. Will people find peace when they unwrap us? When they pull the paper off layer by layer of stress, and worry, and holiday plans,…will they find peace? When you get home tonight and unwrap yourself from the day will you find peace? I hope so. Remember the child that was unwrapped that night. May his spirit live in you.
The psalmist exclaims, “clap your hands all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy” Paul tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is joy. When Mary, the mother of Jesus, arrived at her Cousin Elizabeth’s home it is said the baby inside Elizabeth’s womb leapt for joy!
At Christmas Joy is born into our world.
Joy is different than happiness.  Joy is goodness that bubbles up deep from within us.  Joy is the laughter of children, the singing of birds, and the light of a new day.  Joy is knowing that, just as we are, we are dearly loved by God.  The poet, Mary Oliver says that, ““If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it…life has some possibility left…Joy is not made to be a crumb.”
And so on Christmas we feast on joy!  We throw a party! We sing with the angels!  Joy is born in our world and this is good news for all people!
Joy is born into the world on Christmas. Sometimes it’s awfully hard to have a happy holiday or a merry Christmas. This season
seems to encourage a sense of euphoria that can be hard to unearth in ourselves. It feels like there are Christmas decorations everywhere that practically demand a jubilant holiday cheer. Even nativity scenes, with their perfectly crafted figurines so serene and peaceful, seem to ask that we throw off all thoughts of sadness and loneliness and pain and hurt and whatever else it is we might be feeling. But sometimes we can’t. Even freshly-baked Christmas cookies or hot
chocolate can’t always help bring us happiness.
And that’s okay.
The real nativity scene wasn’t like that anyway. Hay is a lot scratchier than it looks. Animals are smelly. Joseph’s feet probably hurt. Mary wasn’t exactly pain free. And the shepherds, having spent all day with their sheep, were probably smelly too! See, Jesus wasn’t born into glory; He was born
into the middle of a broken, hurting (sometimes smelly) world and was surrounded by broken, hurting people.
There weren’t any miracles that first night. No one was healed. There were no demons cast out or water turned to wine. Jesus didn’t even preach a sermon. He was just there. And that was enough. It is the knowledge of God’s presence, even in our pain, that brings joy. We celebrate Christmas not just because Christ was born into the world but because with Him, with His presence, joy was born into the world. We can rejoice in Christ forHis presence in the manger, His presence on the cross, and His presence in our lives today. We can’t see Him, sometimes we can’t even feel Him, but He’s there. That’s something worth rejoicing in.
There isn’t an advent candle for happiness; we don’t need one. We don’t have to be happy constantly, because happiness is fleeting and shallow and based on what the world can give us. Instead, we can rejoice with a joy too glorious for words. (1 Peter 1:6-9)
So, let us find Christ in the midst of our trials and rejoice in Him for who He is and for His unending love.
The prophets tell us that God is slow to anger and abounding in love. Jesus calls us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The psalmist trusts in God’s unfailing love. The author of 1st John says it most clearly, “God is love” At Christmas love is born into our world.
Love means knowing we are not alone. Love is deep and wide. Love is gentle and kind and yet it is the strongest force in our world. Nothing can stop love. Love overwhelms us. Wendell Berry says, “friends, every day do something that won’t compute. Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing. Take all that you have and be poor. Love someone who does not deserve it.” You see, love does not make sense. And yet. God is love and love is God’s greatest gift to the world. The baby
Jesus grows up to show us what love looks like. Jesus is Love come alive.
I would like to first share a short story: My name is Mara. I’m nine years old now. I used to live in the country. My mother and father died of AIDS. I don’t remember them. My first memory is of my grandmother, lying in bed, sick, saying “Mara, go get some food.” I was 4 years old. I didn’t know
what to do. I went to neighbors and begged. I did chores and errands for them. It was hard. I had jiggers (that’s parasites) in my feet and hands. It hurt to walk. I could barely use my hands. My stomach was always sore, I was so hungry.
Then a little girl from the city made friends with me. Next thing her mom and dad had taken me home with them to Nairobi! The doctors gave me medicine and I went to school. My best friend in school has leukemia. I love to take care of her, and anybody who is sick. My family call me Mara the nurse! I think I love caring for sick people because I found love when I was so sick. I believe that.
Jesus shows us God’s perfect love. He is God’s Perfect Love in human form. Those who believe in Christ and live in Christ, live in love. Love transforms and perfects all things. It never ends.
God is love. We thank God for hope God gives us, for the peace God bestows, for the joy God pours into our hearts, and for the love that redeems us and shows us the


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.