It has been an enjoyable few weeks of Advent, as the Family Project has been into local schools and nurseries with different activities and stories to help us prepare for Christmas. One of the activities I have created with several young people this term is making Christingles. Most people will have seen, if not held, a Christingle in their lifetime. It is normally made up of a candle, red ribbon or white ruffle, orange, sweets and cocktail sticks. Every part is a symbol which helps people remember an important part of God’s work in the world. Two of the key parts are the candle, which helps us think about Jesus as the light of the world; the orange is the symbol of the world and the candle sits in the orange.
Yet, this time I have spent time exploring a different part. Something not normally focused on when it comes to Christingles. I have looked at the silver foil, which many people put beneath their candle, before they sit it into their orange. It seems an insignificant part of the Christingle. Its purpose is to catch wax drips.
However, over the years I have looked at the silver foil and added another meaning to it. The silver foil has become a symbol for humanity. You and I.
It sits beneath the light of Jesus (the candle). Christians say it is Jesus who is the light of the world when we look at the candle on the Christingle. It seems an odd phrase if it isn’t familiar to you. It is used to explain how Christians believe that Jesus’ teaching is the way we are called to live our best lives. It is the way we are meant to live. A way which reduces hurt to each other and the world in which we live. His example is meant to guide us, a bit like a torchlight guides someone lost,walking in the night. That’s why when we look at a candle on the Christingle we say it is a symbol of Jesus who was and is the light of the world.
The piece of foil also sits in the world. It sits in the orange which in the Christingle symbolises the world. We are asked to do the same. People who believe in and/or follow a God are still connected to the wider world. They shouldn’t just stay amongst people who think or believe the same things as them. The world can teach us things too. After all, we believe God created the world and saw that it was good.
Yet, the world (orange) is illuminated by the candle, symbolic of the light of the world a.k.a Jesus. The illumination suggests we should be able to see the world differently, some would say more clearly, perhaps with more empathy and understanding, by looking at it through the light or message of Jesus which incorporates the loving gaze Jesus holds. Jesus’ key message was of love. Love for one another. Love for everybody with no exceptions.
However, a key thing or part of foil is that it is crumpled. Therefore, the light it reflects from the candle isn’t perfect. The light does not bounce off perfectly like from a mirror. You cannot see an image of the candle in the foil on the Christingle. It is a constant reminder to me that even when we look towards the light of the world, read and learn about Jesus, we can never and will never be a true reflection of who Jesus was and is. We can be guided by Jesus, but we are human and a bit crumpled too! Therefore, when you meet someone who follows a faith, it is good to remember that their actions, although hopefully shaped by the loving gaze of their creator, won’t be exactly how God or Jesus or their creator would act. Sometimes it might be near to it. At others time it won’t be like it at all.
Foil also has another element to it. It absorbs and retains heat. I like to think that the more we look towards the light of the world, a.k.a Jesus, the more we might take in his warm positive love, retain some and hopefully send some back out too to those around us who need it most. Again, it won’t be perfect, as the heat on a foil is never as strong as the source of the heat, which in the Christingle is the candle, a.k.a Jesus the light of the world. Therefore, the love you may receive from one another will never be as strong as the source of the love of our creator.
I hope this Christmas you can sense some of the love and some of the guiding light of our creator. Even at a lesser strength this love should feel on some level positive to the recipient. That is the true test as to whether the reflection has any element of God within it.