It is dark, until I flick my wrist and the last match in the packet flares to life. Carefully, I hold the match close to the candlewick and watched as it lights. With another flick, I extinguish the match, hoping that I might be able to reuse it again tomorrow. My congregation whispers excitedly as I wearily hold up my free hand. I know what they expect...a message filled with hope and peace on earth. However, I cannot give them what they expect.
This body has been meeting in the cave for months and my contact had warned me last night that it was time to move on. The cops were on to us. Wordlessly, my helpmate lights her candle, starting a chain reaction that slowly light up their faces. She knows what I'm about to say, and her young face is grave as well.
"My friends and family, I am fully aware that you are expecting from me tonight, but I can't give you a normal feel good message. It would be a discredit to you if I failed to warn my own family."
The congregation starts to murmur amongst themselves and I press forward, knowing that I have to tell them everything. "We're moving tonight. The cops are onto us, its time that our light needs to be shined somewhere else."
Panic sweeps through my congregation. Mothers with sick children cry out and a booming voice rises above the dim. "Preacher, it's Christmas Eve, we can't leave the tunnels tonight, because the police will be everywhere."
I sigh and hold my candle up, gazing across their illuminated faces. I see another familiar face and smile weakly. My contact to what is occurring within the world has arrived. They wouldn't be here unless it was bad news.
The flames flicker and dance aimlessly, creating eerie shadows on the wall and I nod in greeting to my contact. He’ll talk to me later. However, it is his presence here amongst the body that confirms everything that I am going to say. The tunnels and caves that we live in can no longer hide the light that we need to shine to the world.
I hold up my hand for silence, and it slowly descends around me. Taking a deep breath, I continue.
"I know that you are terrified. I am as well. There is no way to know what tomorrow may or may not bring."
That statement brought a few "Amen's" from my flock. I ignore them, pressing forward, knowing that my worlds will bring controversy. And maybe even some strife. How else can we live the gospel hidden away from the world?
"This is why, as soon as we are dismissed here, I am returning to the outside world." A collective gasp filled the air; I could almost feel the air moving around me as my family stares at me in shock, as my words fill the air.
"I cannot hide my light here in the darkness and expect things to change for the better in the world."
I pause long enough to wet my fingertips and extinguish my candle. "Let this be a challenge then, my friends. It is time to stand boldly and show the world what a true Christmas light is. I will not judge you if you choose to stay here, in the relative safety, but also know that the police are starting to come into the tunnels so the safety here is only for a season longer."
I pause and take a deep breath before finishing the meeting with a blessing. "May God be the light of your world and may His blessings rain down upon you and your family..."
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
Matthew 5: 14-15
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