"Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I'll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns." ~Philippians 2:14-15 (the Message)
"better to light a candle than curse the darkness" is an ancient Chinese proverb used as a motto by the Christophers, a group founded by Catholics to promote tolerance, service, political honesty, caring for the sick and poor, and dealing with substance abuse.
It is a theme dramatically illustrated in this 1935 etching by Picasso, The Minitauromachy, in which even in the very face of death, destruction and evil, a little girl holds up a candle of hope against the onslaught of fascism, imperialism, and militarism symbolized by the minotaur.
This first week of Advent, the candle in the wreath is the candle of hope, sometimes known as the Prophets' candle. True, we often look to old testament prophecies of the coming messiah (Jesus), but in Philippians 2, Paul challenges us to be prophets- people who speak God's Word into a dark world. We can hold onto and carry the light of Christ's love into our daily lives, and into even the bleakest situations.
It's easy to become negative, either angry and cynical or discouraged and depressed- but God calls us to be different, to be full of hope. People with Jesus have hope, and people with hope have a sense of security and stability that the world really needs right now.
In a world of poverty, unemployment, alcohol drug abuse and dependence, divorce, non-traditional and broken families, my students sometimes think of me as boring, conservative or an anachronism. But they also see me as safe and steady, caring and approachable and I hope as trustworthy. I'm not the world's greatest teacher or coach. But I can try to be as patient, kind, empathetic, and caring as I can.
It sounds Pollyanna or naive', but sometimes just being a decent person can make someone's world a better place. Certainly just being friendly and smiling can make someone's day.
This Christmas season, try lighting candles instead of just cursing the darkness. Try to be a prophet of hope.
and darkness will become like morning.
18 You will be secure, because there is hope;
you will look about you and take your rest in safety.
19 You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid,
and many will court your favor." ~Job 11:17-19