Isaiah was not thinking about our use of candles on the communion table but something he said helps us understand their symbolic meaning: "Arise, sine for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you" (Isa 60:1). What might these candles be saying to us about the light that has dawned upon us?
A story that I came across recently about a little candle will help us see their significance. The little candle stood in a room filled with other candles, most of them much larger and more beautiful than she was. Some were ornate and some were rather simple, like her. Some were white, some were blue, some were pink, and some were green.
When the sun went down and the room began to get dark, she noticed a man walking toward her with a match. She suddenly realized that the man was going to set her on fire. "No, no!" she cried, "Don't burn me, please!" but she knew that she could not be heard and she prepared for the pain that would surely follow.
To her surprise, the room filled with light. She wondered where it came from since the man had extinguished the match. To her delight, she realized that the light came from her. During the next few hours, she noticed that, slowly, her wax had begun to melt. She became aware that she would soon be gone. With this realization came a sense of why she had been created. She thought, "Perhaps my purpose on earth is to give out light until the end." And that's exactly what she did.
God gives each of us the opportunity to produce light in a world that needs brightening up. Like that little candle, we can produce the same amount of light, no matter how small we are or what color we might be. God has given us the source of our light in the greatest gift we will ever receive, Jesus Christ, who is the light of the world (Ruth Chavez Wallace, Pension Fund Bulletin).
Jesus, like that candle, gave out light to the very end -- in fact, it was at the end of his life that his light in a darkened world was at its brightest. It is not accidental that the churches in Revelation 1-3 are called "lampstands", holders of the light of Christ. The candles on our table remind us of our mission as well as of Him who is the light of the world. The Apostle Paul saw us actually participating in his mission, his light-giving life and death as we take communion. He put it this way: "The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? ... the cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?" (1 Corinthians 10:15-16). As Isaiah said, let us "arise, shine for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you."