I remember this incident as an Easter gathering. My daughters, teenagers at the time, now mothers nearing middle-age, tell me that it was Christmas. But it is so Easter.
“A city-wide gathering for an early morning service in the city-square? Really?”
In a land where it so often felt like the spiritual darkness was doing its best to extinguish any Christian light, we could hardly believe that such a gathering would be allowed, never mind being an annual tradition in this city.
“Bring a candle and a mat to sit on,” our friend said, “the grass may be wet at four a.m. Even though we are the tropics, at seven hundred meters above sea level, it will be cold and damp.”
Four o’clock in the morning? We gulped down our misgivings, smiled politely, and expressed our thanks. This was an opportunity not to be missed, no matter how early.
Three thirty a.m. We pulled ourselves and our daughters out of bed. No coffee, the cold night air would rouse us. We grabbed our jackets, candles, (no cell phones back then), and a plastic mat and drove downtown.
A large stage filled one corner of the city square, several very large loudspeakers stood at each end like bookends. The field was roped off into six sections with space between sections for walking. By the light of flashlights, we were ushered to our place just behind those already sitting on the grass. We spread our plastic mat and sat down. I willed my legs not to complain.
“Amazing. Anticipation crackled in the darkness like sparklers.”
We pulled our jackets tightly around us against the cold. By the eerie light of street lamps and stage lights we could see people filling the space behind and around us. So many Christians gathered in one place. Amazing. Anticipation crackled in the darkness like sparklers.
The service began. The music was loud.
“We should have brought earplugs,” I whispered to my husband.
The stage lights went dark. A single match flared. One candle at the front lit up. Such a tiny flame in the darkness. From that small flame six more candles picked up the flame. Each candle lit the first candle of the first row of each section, then the next row and the next and the next all the way to the end of the field. Each person passed the flame on to their neighbour until the darkness was conquered by hundreds of candles held high. We watched the light spread; saw it conquer the darkness.
We held our lit candles through the sermon, through the growing dawn, and into full sunrise. “Jesus the Light of the World has come,” we sang to waking city.
“We often forget that Christmas foreshadows Easter. In fact, Christmas is incomplete without Easter.”
We often forget that Christmas foreshadows Easter. In fact, Christmas is incomplete without Easter. Jesus the Light of the world came to die and to rise again. He is alive. Death and the grave could not hold Him.
The darkness around us was real, is real, but darkness can never conquer the light. It took place at Christmas but it was the message of Easter.
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