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Communion Meditations (2006)

Night of the Candles

Originally delivered November 19

Last Night

At the end of the American Civil War, after the fighting had ceased, a division of the Union Army spent its last night in tents together.  The shooting was done; tomorrow they would be disbanded.  It occurred to these soldiers that this would be the last night they would be able to use the government issued candles for light—sparingly issued.  But for this one night they could light all they pleased, and so they did.  The camp ground soon was washed in candlelight, brightly lighting their last night as soldiers.

Christ too had His last night—His last night before His crucifixion.  The night took on special meaning for his disciples, for in that night he transformed Passover into Communion, which we still have with us to this day.


Soldiers grow older day by day.  There comes a time when they remember the hardships of combat and the men whose lives were more precious than their own.  They long for a time of reunion—a time to tell old war stories, to remember those fallen; to care for those now in need who once were comrades in arms, or for their widows and children.  It is a time of celebration, a good time, yet it is also a time of remembrance.  It is a rare veteran who stands at attention and listens to taps with dry eyes.  These men came together frequently, and always remembered the night of the candles.

We, too, have a time of remembrance.  Like the veterans we remember the One who walked this earth with us, beyond anything we ever deserved.


There is one obvious fact about a soldier’s reunion:  only those who made it through make it to the reunion.  Yet the topic of conversation often concerns those who did not;  the heroes who died that others might live; the unfortunate who were so close to leaving when they died; the friends buried at some far off battlefield.  Soldiers often enough have the feeling that the reason they survived and others didn’t is that God so selected it—no other explanation seems adequate.  We remember the ones who took a bullet headed our way.

The Christian celebrates his salvation as well, at the hand of His Lord who sacrificed Himself on the Cross so that we might have eternal life.


The unit with the best discipline usually produces the largest number of veterans.  This division no doubt remembered the hardships of close order drill under a howling sergeant—and no doubt marched better in the Veteran’s Day parades for it.  Even if the uniforms no longer fit.

The Christian, too, knows that obedience is the way to becoming a veteran, so to speak.  Obedience shows what Christ is doing within.  So when He tells us, “take and eat,” remember that obedience turns the new Christian into the veteran one.

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