As I jostle the lighter into place above the already burnt, saggy vanilla candle that adorns the center of our dining table, next to a stack of mail, a half-dozen decorative gourds, and my breast pump, I ask my children: “Who do we light a candle for tonight?”
We’re settling into our typical — somewhat chaotic — dinnertime, as our 4-year-old daughter climbs into her chair and our 7-month-old son gnaws relentless on a wooden spoon from his clip-on chair attached to the head of the table. As the days are getting shorter and the darkness comes early, even at 5 p.m. here in Seattle, it is night outside.
My husband and I are trying a new practice with our daughter on these dark, chilly nights. We light a candle at the beginning of our meal (after praying and eating has begun) and name aloud the people we pray for, hoping that the Light of Christ will shine for them. We have always taken time to “bless people” in the prayer time before bed. But our bedtime practice has become rote as we name off the same extended family members each night. This is giving us a chance to broaden our practice of intercession as a family and interact with our daughter’s questions and observations about prayer and how God is present with us. This is still new for us, but already it has opened up fresh perspective on prayer for all of us. At times there is little to no response from our daughter — that’s OK, too.
Much of the time we name actual people — Ron and Cheryl who live next door, the teachers and principal at school, our Sunday School teachers and volunteers. But we also use it as a time to recognize there are always people in need— even if we don’t know their need or see them. “What about lighting a candle for people who are in the hospital down the street? Did you know there are always people in the hospital? What do you think we could ask Jesus to do for them?”
As Thanksgiving Day is upon us, we will also use this time as a time to give thanks, not just to name what we’re grateful for, but who we are grateful for. The Light of Christ shines in us because of the love and life we share with the friends, family, and dear ones who invest in us and spend time with us. We light a candle as a sign of the Light that has been shared with us, Jesus’ love and light embodied in the care we receive from others.
As you gather around the table with dear ones this holiday, might you take a moment to be present in the Light of Christ? Who do you light a candle for today? Who needs the Light to shine in their darkness? And who has shined the Light into your life? Stop and intercede. Stop and give thanks. Let the Light shine in your conversation as a family as we offer thanks to God, from whom all blessings flow.
A Prayer for Thanksgiving (from webelieveandshare.com):
We turn our hearts to you on this
day for giving thanks, mindful of
your many gifts.
For each one, we are grateful.
For each one, we are blessed.
For each one we are opened to the
abundance of your love.
May this Thanksgiving Day offer a
reminder to be generous with others,
as you are with us.
We praise you.
We rejoice in you.
We give you thanks.
Sara Wolbrecht is a Lutheran mission developer on the Eastside of Seattle, Wash., forming a new community of millennial Jesus-followers, with her husband Jason, called Salt House (soon to launch at salthousechurch.org). This post provided thanks to our partnership with Practicing Families, where this first appeared.
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