In THE CHRISTMAS CANDLE, beloved bestselling author Max Lucado spins a light but enjoyable tale of an angel visitation in a small town. It encourages a belief in miracles and offers (as you would expect from Lucado) opportunities to ponder one of the greatest miracles of all: grace and forgiveness.
The story begins in 1664, with a candle maker and his wife. They are awakened by a burst of light, as an angel touches a candle and makes it glow. At the next advent service, the candle maker gives the special candle to a young widow and her two children who are in dire straits. At Christmas Eve, the widow recounts a miracle: "I prayed. I lit the candle and prayed." Then, out of the blue, her wealthy uncle gives her a farm as a gift.
And so it goes that every 25 years, for the next 200 years, an angel touches one candle and the prayer offered over the candle is answered. But the angel only visits the descendants of the first candle maker, Papa Edward. Lucado then fast forwards to 1894 and the Village of Gladstone, where the lineage of the candle makers appears to have ended with the death of Edward's son from cholera. "Does that mean the angel visits stop with you?" asks Reverend Richmond, a candidate for minister, of the elderly candle maker Edward who recounts the story to him. "We assume so." Richmond takes the job, despite some Gladstonians' misgivings about his suitability. He has some secrets in his past that make this parish his only option.
To the dismay of the citizens of Gladstone, Richmond refuses to preach about the miraculous candle. "I don't preach about candles. People don't need old wives tales," says Richmond. "I give people practical help and solid facts. I stay away from mysteries." The pastor confesses he believes that "God would not single out one person and ignore others. It's not fair." What would it take to change his mind? Read on….
Meanwhile, the residents line up to spill their stories of woe to Edward and Bea, all sure they are the most in need of the candle. One man has gambled away his money, while another's son has broken his leg and left the family short-handed. A widow needs money to heat her house for the winter, and a mother worries over the health of her twins. Another woman is going blind, and her son is in trouble with the law. Who will get the special candle? "We don't know why God has given us this gift," Bea says. "But we pray that he will direct us." Later, Edward and Bea ponder what to do. "So many people need the candle. How can we decide who to give it to?" Confusing the issue is an unrevealed need of Edward and Bea's. Should they keep the candle for themselves? Unprecedented --- but is it necessary?
When an unexpected accident means that no one is sure which candle is the special one, it's an opportunity to remind readers that mystery is where God works best. And Gladstone, we find, is a place where past secrets can be forgiven and people can find God's grace, a familiar Lucado theme. This is a quick read (lots of wide margins and white space) and a happy, sweet, straightforward story with simple truths that will be of interest especially to Lucado fans.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on October 3, 2006