A Lutheran Havdallah

On the Saturday evening preceeding the First Sunday in Advent, a local Lutheran church sponsored a Havdallah service with a rabbi from a neighboring city. The service included members of his congregation, members of a heavily-German Lutheran church, and a few hangers-on (like me).


The service was short & sweet, and very moving. At one point, a Jewish boy sang in Hebrew while a Lutheran girl valiantly tried to sing along. The rabbi said that the service that ends Shabat needs three elements: wine, something to smell (we used rosemary), and candles.


After the service, he talked about the significance of candles in both Jewish and Christian traditions. He knew about Advent, and he knew that Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world.” The rabbi said that at the start of Sabbath at least two candles are lit. Why? To see the faces of those who worship with you.


Oops, I thought. I do this without my family. How can it count?


The rabbi said the service ends with the lighting of one multi-wicked candle. It symbolizes many things, including the multiple days in the week ahead and the multiple cares held therein.


Uh oh, I thought. Where am I going to get one of those? Surely not at the Christian bookstore.


After the service, I abandoned my Phariseeism and continued observing Sabbath and Advent as usual. When we finally reached Christmas and lit the Christ candle (one of those tall, cheap candles from the Catholic section of the grocery store), we all rejoiced.


So now it is almost Lent, and I still light my Christ candle each Sabbath. I light it at the beginning of the day and blow it out at the end. When I look at the flame, I am reminded that Jesus is still the Light of the World. He still shines in my darkness. However I choose to observe or not observe the Sabbath, I am choosing to observe Him.