The Candle of Beauty
25th December 2018
The Very Rev’d Frank Nelson
Hope, Peace, Joy and Love – these are the traditional meanings of the four candles lit on the Sundays of Advent. Each brings with it something of the longing of human beings for a better world. The fifth candle, which is lit today, is the Christ candle. At its simplest it reminds us of what Christmas is about – the baby born in a stable and laid in a manger, his mother Mary with Joseph looking on, the shepherds and angels, the magi with their exotic gifts. At its most profound this Christ candle takes us to the words of John the Gospel writer, coming from a passage which, by long tradition, is read on Christmas Eve.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1: 1 – 5
Today I want to suggest there is another candle we need to light – the candle of beauty. There is so much that is beautiful in our Christmas celebrations – take a moment to look around you. The beautiful flower arrangements so lovingly crafted out of what God has given us and human hands have grown, picked and arranged. The soaring pillars and roof of a cathedral such as this – standing strong and steadfast through the ages. The sunlight playing across the brilliant colours of the stained glass windows – each in turn telling a story of faith, hope and love. The happy smiling faces as we look around on Christmas Day, greeting friend and stranger alike. The giving and receiving of gifts – each one chosen with care and love; and the laden tables each beautifully decorated and groaning under the weight of Christmas bounty.
Of course, and sadly, there is also much ugliness – even on a day like today.
And it is precisely here that I think the candle of beauty needs to be lit and allowed to burn – not just today, but every day. Years ago I found myself deeply influenced by a tiny lady who spent decades living among the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta. Of Albanian-Indian origin she is known to the world as Mother Teresa. I particularly like the command that she is said to have given to her fellow sisters as they went about their daily work. Each morning she said: “Go and do something beautiful for God.” Each day Mother Teresa and her sisters in Christ would gather the dying into their hospice and sit with them as death approached – perhaps giving these wretched people the first love and human kindness ever shown to them. This, in her mind, was doing something beautiful for God. Was it worth it? Who can tell? But what a thing of beauty – to bring something of God’s love into the life of someone else – someone who perhaps had not asked or deserved or even known they had wanted it?
It seems to me that this is at the heart of the Christmas story – if we can but unwrap it from the nativity scene, the tinsel and canned music, the jolly fellow in red and white, the over-eating and drinking that all too often ends in the emergency departments of our hospitals.
To do something beautiful for God each day, every day, is surely a Christmas gift worth giving – not just today, but today and tomorrow and all the tomorrows still to come. Yes we need to be serious about our desire for world peace; we need to reach out to the refugee and the displaced, the victims of tsunami, fire and earthquake. Yes, we need to be concerned for climate change and global warming and our rapacious appetite for more and more. Yes, we need to notice and take action on behalf of those who are abused – in any shape or form; who find themselves discriminated against in the work place, or because of their skin colour, sexuality or physical or mental ability. Yes, we need to reach out to those who are alone, who, like Mary and Joseph, find there is no place in the inn. And, thank God, there are people, both Christians and others, who are deeply concerned and committed to making a difference – and you may be numbered among them.
But I think there is this other thing to bring into our daily lives – this command of Mother Teresa’s – to go and do something beautiful for God.
Imagine the difference that will make if each of us here this morning, each person who will read this script online, each one of us got up every morning determined to do something beautiful for God. Truly that would be like celebrating Christmas, not just once a year, but every day of every year.
It would be more than Christmas – it would be Emmanuel, God is with us.
The candle of beauty. Light it. Live it. Be it.
Go and do something beautiful for God.