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A Light Shines in the Darkness

Join with our Servant Partners staff as we pray through the Advent season with reflections from around the world.  This week, Kyle Apuna reflects on his experience in merging traditions to explore the deeper meaning of the Advent wreath and the powerful symbolism of the Thai krathong.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Luke 1:1-5

One Christmas tradition I appreciate is the Advent Wreath.  A few of my internship classmates came from households that prepared their hearts during the Advent season through reflecting on verbal and visual liturgy, and they passed it on to me.  Without a doubt, light is a theme worked thoroughly into our experience of Christmas.  It reminds us that Jesus, our Emmanuel, entered this world as the light who was, who is, and who will never be overcome by darkness.  The Advent wreath and lighting of candles reminds us of the beauty of Jesus’ light in our lives and our world.

In November each year, Thailand celebrates the Loy Krathong festival.  In the North, thousands of paper lanterns are released, floating magically into the air.  In the South, elegant floral floats, called krathong, are topped with candles and released into the river.  Embedded into this tradition is the belief that krathong offerings carry away one’s sins when asking the River for forgiveness for the sins committed against her throughout the year.

Most churches avoid participation in the animistic holiday, but my church found a powerful contextualized message in this beautiful celebration.  Through engaging neighbors during the construction of floats, they share how Jesus came to be that ultimate and final Krathong, carrying away our sins forever.  Jesus is the Lamb that has taken away the sin of the world.  Jesus is the light that has overcome the darkness.

Last year, I merged these two traditions to reflect on Advent in a new way.  I pray this Kratong-inspired Advent wreath blesses you, reminding you that the incarnation of Jesus is found all around us—in the lights we see this holiday season, in the faces that surround us in our communities, and in the various cultures we learn to know and love.


Sit with two candles, if you have some, and light one.  Give thanks for all the ways Jesus’ light has impacted your life (e.g. pushing back your darkness, giving direction, revealing the truth, etc.).

Ask him to highlight someone who needs the light.  Pray for that person and light the other candle.  Worship with “Silent Night.”

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