By Pastor Dave Holland
Gently falling snow paved my walk to our village church on Christmas Eve so long ago. We lived a few blocks from the church I pastored in that small New England town and I expected the Light of the World to visit us as we celebrated His birth. I was preparing early for a full house of festive worshippers on my first Christmas Eve Service. Life could not have been better – until it wasn’t.
I approached our small white colonial church building with the tall steeple noting it looked so warm and inviting. The church and the stained-glass windows glowed with subtle glory waiting for people to arrive.
The first to come was the woman with Jesus’ birthday cake, baked in the shape of a cross. Someone came up with the idea that since it was Jesus’ birthday, HE should have a cake. I expounded on the idea by saying, “Hey, why don’t we conclude the service with everyone lighting their candles as we sing ‘Silent Night’ and gather at the front of the church putting our candles in the cake?” That’s when peace on earth almost became hell in church.
Nearly 200 souls crowded into the church that night to celebrate our dear Savior’s birth. Children fidgeted during scripture readings. People sang Christmas carols with gusto while angels sang harmony. Ushers efficiently distributed the communion elements, and everyone solemnly partook of the body and blood of the Lord Jesus. I thought it was the perfect Christmas Eve service. The time had come for the grand finale.
I directed people toward the four-foot-long birthday cake baked for sweet baby Jesus and gave the fateful instructions, “Ushers, turn out the lights and ignite the candle of the person on the end of each row, then each one light your neighbors candles for the glory of God as we all sing, ‘Silent Night’ proceeding by the cake.” The radiant glow of the room grew with increasing intensity as people came forward to place their candle in the now shining cake. As two hundred wax candles began to accumulate, the cake was transformed from beaming in light to a blazing inferno. The strangest sight began to unfold in slow motion. Liquid fire began to flow over the edges of the cake onto the floor and I thought, “Oh my Lord, I’m going to burn down the church with all the people in it!”
Miraculously, the fire went out as soon as the flames hit the floor. No one fried that night. “Praise God in the Highest,” the angels surely sang. A little boy in the back who didn’t get to place his candle in the cake began crying, “But Daddy, I want to start a fire too.”
The lights quickly came back on and the parishioners went home that night, glad to be alive. One look from my wife silently said, “You silly, silly man.”
I’m thankful the grace of God did not allow us to burn up that night. This event reminds me that Jesus came to save sinners, of whom I am chief. I learned that Christmas is not about lights or candles, cakes or carols, but entirely about a Savior who loves us enough to become one of us. I went home a humbler man that Christmas Eve as I realized God was preparing me for the birth of His Son in my heart. The first quality we need to welcome Jesus this Christmas is the humility to know that life is really all about Jesus, the King of Kings.
Lord Jesus, help us focus on You during our Christmas celebrations. Too often we are obsessed with decorations and liturgies rather than on the Son of God. We want to see You Jesus, touch You, worship You in all Your glory. You are the gift that we seek,You are the Light of our lives. Happy Birthday Jesus!