The Churches of


Fenny Bentley Parwich Thorpe Tissington

Tissington Children’s service, November 2005

Bonfires and the Light of the World

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Did any of you go to a bonfire last night?   Did you get very wet?  

What were the fireworks like?   Did you know that fireworks originally came from China, and the first fireworks were probably made around 2,000 years ago?   The Japanese word for firework means ‘fireflower’.

The first time fireworks were used in this country was at the wedding of King Henry VII in 1486.

Was the bonfire good?   Have you ever thought what the word ‘bonfire’ really means?   Why don’t we just use the word ‘fire’?   It actually means ‘bone fire’ – because a bonfire was originally a fire made up of lots of bones of animals.   (this dates from the time when people in this country believed that by burning animal bones in a big fire they could get God to protect them)

Did you know that in the old Prayer Book there used to be a special service for November 5 th ?   It was a service of thanksgiving for the fact that the attempt by Guy Fawkes to blow up and   kill King James I and the whole English Parliament was foiled.   (It would have been quite an explosion – he had prepared 36 barrels of gunpowder, which is said to have been 25 times as much as would have been need to blow up Parliament).

I’d like us to think today about fire.   In one sense there’s no such thing as fire – it is just the heat and the light which are produced when something burns.  

Fire can be very useful.   We use fires to heat our homes.   In many parts of the world fires are still used for cooking.   When people first discovered how to extract iron from iron ore, fire was an important part of the process.   So without fire we wouldn’t be able to make anything out of metal.   Coal fires were used in steam trains and in steam ships, to heat the boilers to make the steam which powered the trains and the ships.   These are all fires which are controlled by people, and used by them for what they want to do.

But fire can also be very dangerous.   Every so often we hear of forest fires which burn out of control.   Spain; Australia; California in recent times.   When a house catches fire it can kill people.   Sometimes you hear about fires deep within coal mines, which can kill the miners who are down there.   And there was of course the Great Fire of London of 1666, which is said to have destroyed 13,000 houses and made 100,000 people homeless.  

Fire, then, is an example of something which can be good and useful; but which can also be dangerous and harmful.   But I want to show you a fire which is more powerful than any of the fires I have just talked about.   (show a lighted candle)

Have you ever wondered why we have candles in church?   Candles are an example of a controlled form of fire.   We don’t need them to light the church – they have a different purpose.   They are there to remind us of Jesus – who is the Light of the World.   How can this little flame be more powerful than all the other fires I have talked about?

- it has the power to burn away those things within us which are not good – the selfishness, the unkindness, the impatience, greed, envy, jealousy and so on.

- it is also a light to show us the way in life. By following the teachings of Jesus, we learn to be loving, kind, caring, generous, and to help those in need.

- We may sometimes think that the world is in a bad way.   People going hungry; fighting one another; disasters of various kinds.   But this little flame reminds us that Jesus, the Light of the World, gives us all hope. For the world can be changed for the better by all those things which Jesus came to bring: love is more powerful than hatred, peace is more powerful than violence, and light is more powerful than darkness.  

So let the light of Christ shine in the hearts of each one of us, a flame to burn away those things which are bad, and to light our path towards God.   May that light never go out, and may it spread through us, to others.