This article was first published in the December 2016 issue of our parish magazine.
In our parish we usually mark the first Sunday in December with a Christingle service. For me, this is one of the highlights of the year. There is something magical about candlelight, and Christingle candles are particularly special. If you ask any Sunday School child, they will tell you the significance of the Christingle candle: it represents the Light of the World, Jesus casting light in our darkness. There is no higher calling for a humble candle.
Of course, the rest of the elements of the Christingle also have significance.
The orange represents the world, and the red ribbon is God’s love encircling us – also the blood of Jesus. The four cocktail sticks bearing sweets or dried fruits are God’s bountiful creation across each of the four seasons. The foil is not just there to catch dribbles of hot molten wax; it also represents the nails driven into Jesus’ hands and feet.
There are many Christingle hymns, and in our churches we regularly sing two of them – “Round Orange” (W92) and Rev Debby’s “Christingle Song” (W108). Verse by verse, both of these explain the symbolism of Christingles. In Sunday School we also like to sing “Hope of Heaven” by Mark and Helen Johnson (Out of the Ark). Beginning and ending with a short solo, it has a beautiful melody, and I believe the Children’s Choir sings it incredibly well:
- Light up a candle and hold out the globe,
- Here in the darkness the light of the world.
- The red in the ribbon for love that He showed,
- And sweets as a sign of His goodness.
- A life freely given, a love we can know,
- The light of the world ever with us.
- Hope of Heaven,
- In our darkness,
- You came to earth bringing peace and life.
- Hope of Heaven,
- Full of kindness,
- Come shine your light
- In this candle that I hold.
Our heartfelt gratitude needs to go to the team of volunteers that makes up well over 100 Christingles each year. I helped with this task for a few years. The church was usually cold, our fingers numb, and assembling the elements was a bit like a production line. I don’t remember thinking deeply about what we were making as we worked, but I wish I had.
When you collect your Christingle on 4 December this year, before tucking in to the sweets and dried fruits, take a moment to hold it, and look at each part of it. Look at the candle while you sing the Christingle hymns, and listen to the words you are singing. Smell the citrus, taste the goodness. Feel the heat of the little flame. The Light of the World is coming – savour your Advent preparations.