Not Good Enough to Go to Church – The Lamplighter


A young man named William stands outside a Victorian church on Christmas Eve. The streets are quiet except for the sound of a worship service beginning.

A Lamplighter dressed in black is making his way home, checking each lamp on his way by.

William starts up the steps but backs down. He starts up the steps again but backs down a second time. He is unaware that Luke the Lamplighter has stopped what he is doing and is leaning on the lit lamppost watching him until he speaks.

LUKE: Steps too high for you, Son? Need a hand up?

WILLIAM: What? (Looks at the steps) Oh, those. No thank you, sir, I was just deciding whether or not to go inside.

LUKE: Got a name?

WILLIAM: William.

LUKE (shaking Will’s hand): Luke Freeman. Can you tell me, William, what factors weigh into your decision?

WILLIAM shrugs: I’ve had invitations to go elsewhere.

LUKE: True enough, there are many other options.

WILLIAM glances around and moves closer to Luke: The truth is I feel I just don’t belong in there.

LUKE (sizes him up): Belong, huh? Yes, well, maybe you don’t.

(William straightens up in surprise then slumps back down.) WILLIAM: So you can see I’m not good enough to be in there.

LUKE: Good enough? Is that what you think the problem is? Thinking you have to be good enough to get into the church, why, that’s like thinking you aren’t well enough to be admitted to hospital!

WILLIAM: Isn’t that what it’s all about? Being good?

LUKE: Humbug! There aren’t any good people in there. Fact is, if someone showed up who was good enough, he might just muck up the deal for the rest of us!

WILLIAM: Oh, I get it. You mean it’s not about being good; it’s about trying to be good.

LUKE: I don’t mean that at all. Try to be good? That’d be as useful as trying to be a cow!

WILLIAM: I don’t understand.

LUKE: Well, I could sincerely want to be a cow. I could try with all my heart and soul to be one. I could walk around a pasture on all fours, eat grass and moo with the best of them. Now, I might convince myself I was a cow. I might even fool some others into thinking I was a cow. But, soon as the farmer comes around for milking time, well, then the jig’d be up, wouldn’t it now?

WILLIAM (skeptically): But if it’s not about being good, what is it about?

LUKE: What do you think about when you think about Christmas?

WILLIAM: Gifts, I guess . . .

LUKE: There you go! You already know the answer, lad! (He starts to walk away.)

WILLIAM: Wait, no, I don’t understand! What do gifts and church have to do with each other?

Luke turns back and contemplates Will for a moment.

LUKE: Because we walk into that church knowing we are beggars, knowing we are not good enough to be in the presence of the Almighty King of the Universe. But rather than toss us out on our ear, as well He might, He lays out His very best before us! He offers all He has to us and that freely. Then, then in our very souls we know that He receives us to Him not because of who we are but because of who He is! Through His Son, we receive a goodness that is not our own and that is our inheritance!

WILLIAM: Sir, (pause) do the people in there (pointing toward the church) know about this? It sounds beautiful but are you sure you got it right? No disrespect, Mr. Freeman, but I know some of those people and well . . . I just don’t see it like you do.

Meanwhile, Luke has given his attention to a nearby lamp. LUKE: Do you see this lamp, Son?

WILLIAM nods.

LUKE: That flame inside, that light, it is a wondrous thing! So beautiful to behold, it burns with amazing power. That flame gives warmth, light, and guidance but it also contains a mighty force with the power to consume.

WILLIAM: Yes, but I don’t see . . .

LUKE: The problem with some of these lamps, see, is that they begin to collect dust and dirt. Some of them seem to invite soot to attach itself to them. If they aren’t tended on a regular basis, the light dims so’s you’d think it wasn’t even there. Truth is, though, that the light remains untouched, pure and blazing bright. One swipe of a rag and there is the beauty and purpose again!

WILLIAM: That’s sort of interesting but I don’t see . . .

LUKE turns to the unlit lamp. LUKE: Now, this lamp over here, this is a sad thing. Something is wrong with this one. It refuses to light. It doesn’t matter how clean this lamp gets; it cannot give light on its own. Now, it’s fine for dressing up at Christmas but it was designed for more.

(He turns to William with intensity.) Do you follow me now, Son?

WILLIAM: Are you about to tell me the Christmas story?

LUKE (passionate, intense): You know the story, boy! What you need to know is that baby. That manger babe grew up and became a man like us but more than us! He was man and He was God. He gave His life in your place. He rose from the dead! He is that Light, Boy! He is that flame burning in me. Sometimes I let the dust of my life and sin dim that flame but then I fall to my knees and in His forgiveness, I am clean. He shines through me once more and I am whole because that is my purpose, my design.

(He pauses and turns to the unlit lamp.) Look closely, son. Tonight you are this lamp. It is dark all around you, William, because you refuse to be lit from within.

LUKE (quietly, gently): We all have to make our own decision, lad. Have I helped at all with yours?

How about you? Are you in or out? Does your light shine?

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1 Comment

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  1. My favorite verse… Let your light so shine….