The phone startled me.
I wasn’t expecting the phone to ring while we were on holidays a few days before General Convention at Rochedale. His voice was soft, with a trace of an accent—German, I think.
‘Hello, Reid, this is Matthias Prenzler.’ After a few brief pleasantries, Matthias reached the apex of why he was calling.
‘I was wondering’, he said, as if weighing the words carefully, ‘if you would be willing to be a substitute candle-mover during General Synod’s convention’.
Needless to say, I wasn’t sure what a substitute candle-mover was, but I was sure that it would look good on my CV.
‘Ummm, sure’, I responded, not sure what I was getting myself into, but surely moving a candle couldn’t be that difficult.
Matthias cleared his throat. ‘If you could meet me at the Christ Candle after morning worship, maybe we could practise.’
I hadn’t had acolyte practice since I was in junior high.
The morning of substitute candle-moving practice dawned bright, and after the service I met Matthias near the behemoth candle in front of the altar.
For ten minutes, he gave me the rundown on how to insert the handle into the back of the candle’s carriage. Then, for fifteen agonising minutes, we transported the movable light (without extinguishing it) to the hall. It was interesting to watch the bemused expressions of those who were enjoying morning tea while they watched us wheel the flickering flame.
As I reflect back on my indoctrination into my degree in SC-M (Substitute Candle-Moving), I recognise there was nothing special about me which caused me to be chosen to move the light. I was given the opportunity not because I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in finance or a Master of Divinity degree, but simply because I was available.
The responsibility to carry the light to a new location is simply a matter of willingness, time and place.
I imagine the shepherds on that first Christmas, as the angels bring them news of the light that has come into the world. Like Matthias, they wanted to make sure that they got the message right: ‘Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you; you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’.
The angels didn’t put a qualifier on the shepherds’ abilities to be SC-Ms. They didn’t have to go to seminary, or attend Bible college, or even sign up for Lutheran Education. They simply had to be in the right place at the right time and be willing to take the light to wherever God called them.
So, we are all Substitute Candle-Movers this Christmas. It doesn’t matter what our background or education may be.
It doesn’t matter where we’ve been. What matters is where we are going. Where Christ calls us.
Reid Matthias is school pastor at Faith Lutheran College, Plainland, Queensland.