The Candles of Christmas

By Rev. Beth Long-Higgins  •  December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas! I offer words from Howard Thurman as a gift for you this day. Words written almost half a century ago. Yet they are helpful for us as we live in this liminal time between ending one year and anticipating the next.

In case your path has not yet crossed his, Thurman was born in segregated Florida in 1900.  Recognized as one of the twentieth century’s foremost religious leaders, he was a prolific writer. In addition, he was a preacher, teacher and professor. And Rev. Dr. Thurman founded the interdenominational Fellowship Church in San Francisco, the first fully integrated church in America.

In this Christmas message, he references the events around and following World War II. But substitute today’s headlines and battles waged here in 2019, and these words of hope are welcome for our own time. May they be as a light in the darkness offering you and your loved one hope this season.


The Christmas Candles

I will light the candle of fellowship this Christmas.

I know that the experiences of unity in human relations are more compelling than the concepts, the fears, the prejudices which divide. Despite the tendency to feel my race superior, my nation the greatest nation, my faith the true faith, I must beat down the boundaries of my exclusiveness until my sense of separateness is completely enveloped in a sense of fellowship. There must be free and easy access by all, to all the rich resources accumulated by groups and individuals in years of living and experiencing. This Christmas, I will light the candle of fellowship, a candle that must burn all the year-long.

I will light the candle of hope this Christmas.

There is strange irony in the fact that there seemed to have existed a more secure basis for hope in the world during the grimmest days of the war than in the vast uncertainties of the postwar and cold war world. Now millions of people are thrown back upon themselves for food which they do not possess, for resources that have long since been exhausted, for vitality which has already run its course. The miracle of fulfillment dreamed of by the uprooted and persecuted masses of men, women, and children takes now the form of a hideous night-mare, as peace is so long deferred. But hope is the mood of Christmas; the raw materials are a newborn babe, a family, and work. Even in the grimness of the postwar world, babies are being born—an endless procession that is life’s answer to death. Life keeps coming on, keeps seeking to fulfill itself, keeps affirming the possibility of hope.

Hope is the growing edge!

I shall look well to that growing edge this Christmas. All around worlds are dying out, new worlds are being born; all around roots are silently at work in the darkness of the earth against a time when there shall be new leaves, fresh blossoms, green fruit. Such is the growing edge! It is the one more thing to try when all else has failed, the upward reach of life. It is the incentive to carry on. Therefore, this Christmas I will light the candle of hope that must burn all the year-long.

About the Author

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, musician, fiber artist and mother of two adult children.

View all articles by Rev. Beth Long-Higgins