I know my mom and dad taught me the meaning of Christmas every year and tried to steer my mind from the baubles, goodies and gifts to the birth of a Child who meant everything to my parents, and their parents and grandparents before them.
After jogging my sleep-deprived brain for several minutes I remembered a Finnish tradition that I took part in on my mission.
|Photo by Pöllö: "A man remembering his dead relatives on Christmas Eve on a Finnish cemetery in Helsinki, Finland. It is a tradition to bring candles to graves on Christmas - thousands and thousands of candles light the cemeteries."|
Each Christmas Eve, the Finnish people would visit the cemeteries and place candles on the graves of their loved ones. I was in eastern Finland my first Christmas Eve as a missionary. We stayed with a family from church and went to the graveyard near their home.
The graveyard was radiant and teeming with life. People were everywhere walking reverently through the tombstones, placing candles on graves, and sometimes kneeling beside a marker for their loved one.
Others were gathered to honor their heroes. The section for the fallen soldiers pulsed from the light of hundreds of candles placed there by the living grateful. It was a night when the living and dead were together.
Traipsing a graveyard may sound like something for Halloween, but Christmas Eve was the perfect time for this tradition.
On the night when we celebrate the birth of a Child who broke the bands of death, the living and the dead were united. Or rather, the dead regained their chance of life and the living were ensured their victory over death to come.
That Finnish graveyard was a holy and heavenly place on Christmas Eve. As I wandered the paths with my friends, I felt peace and a welcoming spirit of life. The glow of so many lights piercing the cold and dark reminded me that Christ, the Light of the world, has opened the graves for us all.
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J. blogs at Cygnus Opus