The Christmas Candle

December evenings in Texas resist the holiday spirit. They tend to be balmy and warm, more tropical than polar. But I remember one in 2004 that cooperated. A chill was in the air. Winter was creeping southward.  We bundled up in our winter coats and drove to the nearby high school for a Christmas banquet.

Families sat at round tables. Tables were adorned with wreaths. Each wreath centerpieced with a candle. We drank wassail, ate turkey, and–the highlight of the night–we listened to the high school choir sing a rendition of holiday songs.

It might help to know that the school is Episcopalian, with strong Anglican roots. The choir director cherished the old hymns. Less “Chestnuts” and “Rudolf” and more “Silent Night” and “Herald Angels.”

It was delightful.  As the choir sang and the families listened, I enjoyed that all too fleeting feeling, “All is right with the world.”  I stared at the candle as it flickered and I thought of candles as they have done the same at a thousand Christmases. And as I enjoyed the moment and watched the candle, a story began to take shape. A candlemaker in the English Cotswolds. A 19th century village of simple people in need of a miracle.  By midnight, I had sketched the story on paper: “The Christmas Candle.”

The story became a book and the book has lifted spirits for seven Christmases now.

Thanks to Tom Newman and the fine folks of Impact Productions, it appears that the Candle story will touch a whole new generation. Production of the movie version is underway.  Tom has assembled some of the finest talent in the UK. Director John Stephenson (Five Children and It).  Director of photography Mike Brewster (Jack the Giant Slayer, the Harry Potter series).

The cast includes Hans Matheson (Clash of the Titans, Sherlock Holmes), Samantha Barks (Les Miserables), Lesley Manville (Another Year, Vera Drake). Also starring are Sylvester McCoy (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), John Hannah (The Mummy, Four Weddings and a Funeral), Barbara Flynn (Miss Potter, The Borgias), and James Cosmo (Braveheart, Game of Thrones).  The film also marks the acting debut of Susan Boyle.

I couldn’t be more pleased. Candace Lee and Eric Newman have written a marvelous screenplay. They have added some characters and embellished others. The story is much better, thanks to their touch.

When Denalyn and I visited the set in England last month, we were treated like royalty…everyone was so kind and gracious. What an honor to be a part of capturing a slice of this golden era of British history. May the beauty of the 19th century Cotswolds inspire every viewer. And may the ever present message of Christmas encourage every seeker.

The light of the candle still flickers.