Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "O Come O Come Emmanuel"1 (Lyrics)
I've discovered an Advent wreath tradition where the first candle to be lit is "The Prophets' Candle". That got me thinking: All Advent themes must get their flame from "The Prophets' Candle". Otherwise it's impossible to grasp the true meaning of such promises as hope, peace, joy, and love. We'd diminish their value in the Christian life. Thus, I invite you to join me in contemplating "The Prophets' Candle".
The Old Testament prophets were blazing candles shining into their society's spiritual darkness. Their flame shone an uncomfortable light on sin. It also shone a light on the good news: A Messiah would someday ignite the hearts of people, empowering them to blaze with the hope, peace, joy, and love that originates with God Himself. Today, you and I are called to be torchbearers for that same flame.
Think of the Olympic flame. It's ignited at its origin in Olympia, Greece. In a special ceremony prior to every Olympics, the flame is kindled by the light of the sun. Torchbearers relay this flame across thousands of miles to the Olympic site. Backup flames are lit from the original, ready in case the fire gets extinguished. No other fire will do. Apparently, a rainstorm once doused the Olympic flame, and someone used a cigarette lighter to rekindle it. People were horrified! Authorities quickly extinguished it and re-lit it using an authentic flame.
The Old Testament prophets reported the Lord's words condemning unauthorized fire, the "cigarette lighters" of their day:
Isaiah 50:10b-11 – Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches … this is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment. (NIV)
Malachi 1:10 – Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! (NIV)
In recent months, many Christians have wondered if God is using COVID-19 to douse our own "useless fires", those worship practices and beliefs which fail to relay the one and only authorized flame. That's merely left worshippers groping in the dark, struggling to find some alternate flicker of hope. Our "useless fires" may simply have been our preoccupations with commitments and tasks, even at church. That's been a propensity for me. I've never found it easy to appreciate trials which set me apart from others and from my tasks. Perhaps you find that, too. Why not join me then, in using our freed-up time to investigate God's "torch bearers", such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the Psalms. Why not explore how often the New Testament writers drew from this "Prophets' Candle" to reveal the Good News. Inevitably, we will gain a fuller experience of God's never-ending blessings in Christ — His hope, peace, joy, and love.
Prayer: Lord, instill within us with a holy dissatisfaction for our "useless fires", and ignite a passion for what endures and can sustain us: the hope, peace, joy, and love which has its origin in You. Amen.