Worship 9th May 2021


A Candle in the Darkness

About 30 years ago (1989) in Timisoara, Romania, Laszlo Tokes became pastor of Timisoara’s small Hungarian Reformed Church. Tokes preached the Gospel boldly, and within two years membership had swelled to five thousand.

But success can be dangerous in a Communist country. Authorities stationed police officers in front of the church on Sundays, cradling machine guns. They hired thugs to attack Pastor Tokes. They confiscated his ration book so he couldn’t buy food or fuel. Finally, in December 1989, they decided to send him into exile.

But when police arrived to hustle Pastor Tokes away, they were stopped cold. Around the entrance of the church stood a wall of humanity. Members of other churches—Baptist, Adventist, Pentecostal, Orthodox, Catholic—had joined together to protest.

Though police tried to disperse the crowd, the people held their post all day and into the night. Then, just after midnight, a 19-year-old Baptist student named Daniel Gavra pulled out a packet of candles. He lit one and passed it to his neighbour.

When Tokes peered out of the window, he was struck by the warm glow reflecting off hundreds of faces. That moment, he said later, was the “turning point in my life.” His religious prejudices evaporated. Here were members of the body of Christ, completely disregarding denominational divisions, joining hands in his defence.

It was a moving testimony to Christian unity.

The crowd stayed all through the night—and the next night. Finally police broke through. They bashed in the church door, bloodied Pastor Tokes’ face, and then paraded him and his wife through the crowd and out into the night.

But that was not the end.

No, the religious protest led—as it always does—to political protest. The people streamed to the city square and began a full-scale demonstration against the Communist government. Again Daniel passed out his candles.

First they had burned for Christian unity; now they burned for freedom.

This was more than the government could tolerate. They brought in troops and ordered them to open fire on the crowd. Hundreds were shot. Young Daniel felt a searing pain as his leg was blown off. But the people of Timisoara stood bravely against the barrage of bullets.

And by their example they inspired the entire population of Romania. Within days the nation had risen up and the bloody dictator Ceausescu was gone.

For the first time in half a century, Romanians celebrated Christmas in freedom.

Daniel celebrated in the hospital, where he was learning to walk with crutches. His pastor came to offer sympathy, but Daniel wasn’t looking for sympathy.

“Pastor, I don’t mind so much the loss of a leg,” he said. “After all, it was I who lit the first candle.”

The candle that lit up an entire country.

With a candle, a nineteen-year-old boy sparked a revolution that is still being felt today. Romania is a free country thanks to the efforts of people like Daniel Gavra who were willing to put their lives on the line for the sake of the Gospel and for basic human rights.

You can make a difference wherever you are if you are willing to take a stand. Don’t wait for everyone else to do it. Be the first to light your candle.

John 8:12

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Matthew 5 ;14-16

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.


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