Christmas Lights – Eternal Flame
Most eternal flames are more symbolic than actual. Several years ago a group of Catholic school children was visiting John F. Kennedy’s grave in Arlington Cemetery. One of the children was preparing to sprinkle holy water on the grave when the cap fell off of her bottle and a gush of water extinguished the flame. It was quickly relit by a member of the cemetery maintenance crew.
Eternal flames are man’s best attempt to create an everlasting reality, and they do suggest the existence of an ultimate and more perfect light. God’s is this light. His reality stands in stark contrast to man’s efforts. Leaders can motivate, but God provides lasting hope. The world’s love infatuates, but God’s love never fails. Peace here provides temporary inspiration, but the peace that comes from heaven cannot be shaken. Similarly, earthly joy thrills for a moment, but heaven’s joy bubbles up forever.
On the night Jesus was born in Bethlehem an angel appeared to a group of shepherds watching their sheep by night. His message is recorded in Luke 2:10: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The news that was to bring such joy was the birth of the Savior, “Christ the Lord!” He was the promised Messiah, and He was coming to redeem the world.
This joy was truly eternal. Its source and essence was God, and its goal was to restore sinners forever. Satan has tried to extinguish it ever since, but has been unsuccessful. Heaven’s joy can be temporarily obscured by sin, but continues to rise, and invades our darkness to reveal God’s glory.
I think the very idea of an eternal man-made flame indicates our quest for a permanent source of joy in our lives. We hear people say, “It seems like everything good in my life is always followed by something bad.” This is more than a perception. Evil has rooted itself in our world, and God’s creation is decaying before our eyes.
Yet, the power of God over sin and Satan is evidenced in the joy He puts in us. His joy isn’t subject to circumstances, or sin and its consequences. The God of joy lifted the heart of His servant David when he fell to temptation. He comforted the prophets who were hounded by evildoers. And He filled His apostles with joy in spite of daily hardships.
In his second letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul recounted his suffering for the sake of Christ. But he concluded, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
The joy that came to the shepherds was “great” and “for all people”. Its greatness rested in its content, but also its nature. God’s joy is eternal. It provides strength within when everything is falling apart without.
And the best news of all is we don’t have to wait until the end of our temporary lives to receive eternal joy. Christ has come, and will come into our hearts if we accept Him. His light, His eternal flame will never go out. His joy is forever.