It's a few days before Christmas Eve. A family is driving through a neighborhood that's in a rural area, looking at all the Christmas lights, cups of hot chocolate warming their hands and mouths. After a long stretch of road without houses, they see a house with lights in the windows. As they get closer, they realize that there are no red and green lights or reindeer in the yard, just warm burning lights in every window.
"Why are there candles in the windows?" asks one of the children.
"I suppose because it looks nice," says the mother. And they drive on.
But there's a reason and a history behind candles in the windows (and all over our houses) at Christmas.
At the beginning of the seventeenth century, England had conquered Ireland. To keep the Irish from revolting, and to exterminate their traditions, the British instituted strict laws. Irishmen were not allowed to vote, purchase land, or even give their children schooling. Even Irish priests were banished from the land, and forbidden to return, under pain of death.
However, on the night before Christmas, Irish families of the faith lit three candles to representing Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and placed them in their windows. Meant as a signal to any priest that might be passing by, the candles were a sign of hospitality. They told priests that the family wanted him to come in, share a meal, and celebrate Christ's Mass (Christmas).
These Irish families knew that "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
Despite the laws that tried to keep them from worshipping, they still honored the Light of the World.