Merry and Bright

merry-and-bright

Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT) “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

The holiday crush is on. Busyness and rushing around is inevitable. Planning and preparation in full swing. My daughter and I went to a store yesterday to pick out some new Christmas decorations. The place was a wreck. Deep discounts created a feeding frenzy with garland, ornaments and ribbon everywhere – kind of made me think of Santa’s Workshop on December 26th. You could not navigate the buggy through the place. Shameful. One more stop on the way home to another home store was much nicer. This store was dimly lit. The aroma of cinnamon and apples wafting through the air. No hurry just people strolling and browsing. When the clerk asked one group of ladies if she could assist them, they replied, “We just stopped because it was so pretty and inviting when we drove by and saw the warm lights.” Hmmm. Made me think…

People put a great deal of effort and money into Christmas. Creating the perfect holiday is really what they are after with memories to match. The stress and pressure of perfection robs of us the joy of Christmas so often. The need to perform and produce mounds of gifts causes great anxiety. Schedules overfilled and routine completely shattered, it is easy to become overwhelmed. In all our busyness, even as Christians who insist on “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays”, I wonder if in all the form and fashion – our light goes out. The Christmas pageant and production with all its extravagance means nothing if it does not project the Light of God’s Love to all those who come searching sitting in the crowd. We need the Light. We are carriers of His Light. We must learn to make this Christmas merry and bright or miss it altogether.

2 Corinthians 4:3-6 (NLT) If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

Jesus tells me, in Matthew 5, that I am the Light of the world. See it. “You are the Light of the world.” Got it. Or do I truly understand the origin or importance of the Light that God has given me along with His Grace. I must know the Light to appreciate what I have and effectively express it to other people The Gospel is no good without the light. It becomes do as I say not as I do which we all know never works on people. Just saying.

We are first introduced to light in Genesis 1 the first few moments of existence that we are privy to thanks to God’s Word. The earth was formless and empty. It was covered in darkness over deep waters. The Spirit of God (Jesus) hovered over the water. The God said, “Let there be light.” There was light and the light was good. Jesus illuminated the world at God’s Command. God was pleased.

Moving into the New Testament, God has sent His Son to redeem His People. At the baptism of Jesus, the skies opened and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove so people could see that this indeed was God’s Son… the Messiah. (Matthew 3) Anyone who spent any time in church can usually recite John 3:16, “For God so loved the world: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” Woo Hoo! We are saved. We win. My life will be perfect because my Savior has come…but wait there is more. Jesus did not come to judge us but that we may be saved through Him. Okay, I get that commence celebration again. No wait…keep reading there is more.

John 3:18-21 (NLT) “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.

Jesus is the reason for the season. I am sure every believer concurs with this familiar sentiment. However, there is a house in our neighborhood with a sign in their yard with this slogan on it. Nothing more. Nothing less. There is no Christmas tree by the window. Not a string of lights on a limb. The porch light of the house is off and all the blinds closed. No light just a yard sign stuck in the ground. Now I do not know the situation or the traditions of the family who live there and I am certainly not challenging anyone’s convictions, but here is what I am saying: We are the Light of the world. Have we our lights go out? God’s Light came into the world. His Name is Jesus. He did not come to judge or to condemn but make a Way to the Father. He did that and then put the Light that lives in Him in us to light the way for others. The merry message of this season is not “turn or burn” but come and see what the Lord has done for me.

Can we keep it simple? My mission in this life is to be light. Jesus illuminated unconditional love and never ending grace for those who flock to the Light. Is my light even shining? Is it the Light of His Love? Our “good deeds” should relay the Truth of God’s Love who was present in the beginning and filled this world with light. The One who came down as a baby born in a manager to bring hope to the hopeless and ignite the Light of God’s Love in our hearts. Jesus was quite frank when He said, “I am the Light of the world.” (John 8:12) He told us that we are the light of the world as His Followers. When Jesus was transformed during his transfiguration, He was covered in bright light. Our flesh covers a light that attracts others to God’s Love. Can we take a moment to get us out of the way so the Light makes its way to the darkness?

There is no question that a momentary experience with Christ can change everything. Just ask Paul who as Saul encountered a bright light from Heaven. When he asked who was speaking, the voice said, “Jesus.” Do not every downplay the power of the Light that lives in you but strive to let it emanate from your life. Perfect Christmas’s should be merry and bright. The Light of His Love is the brightest light of all.

2 Corinthians 4:7 (NLT) We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

Our family missed out on adopting a family for Christmas this year. When the opportunity to take some children who had not received anything came about – I was ecstatic that God allowed us to participate. I love to give. It is my favorite part of Christmas though this has not always been my favorite time of year. I struggled with Christmas for many years for many reasons. Not the meaning of Christmas, of course not. Some may be able to relate, as a child it was a power struggle between parents. A stressful time of having Christmas and dinner at one house and then at noon doing it all again which to a child of divorce only exemplifies the painful stress of loving two parents who don’t love each other. So when my own children were born, I became militant about staying at home for Christmas. I became overwrought with doing all the “things” and making all the “traditions” to make it like a Christmas card. I hated decorating our house, putting up the tree, planning the menus, organizing events and all the parts of making it a successful holiday season. The only part I truly enjoyed was giving. Can you relate?

For some Christmas only makes the loneliness and depression they live in more prominent. Others become anxious in their inability to meet the expectations of others. I could go on and on. Yet a whole lot of people pretend it is the most wonderful time of the year when deep down inside they are only enduring its passage.

The light given to us is placed in fragile clay jars. God knows what we are made of for He is after all our Creator. He put the Light of His Love into broken vessels so it could make its way into a waiting and watching world. The same place that is filled with darkness and death. You are the Light of His Love. I am the Light of His Love. We are the Light of the World. What if for a moment our mission became uniting as one light and making this season merry and bright together. Admitting that our flaws and weaknesses are real but sharing the Message of Love and Grace that has been given.

John 12:35-36 (NLT) Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.”

Do you trust in the Light of His Love today? Do you trust it enough to let Him change your holiday tradition into a Christmas Experience? Tear up the list. Stop fussing over the tree. It doesn’t matter if there is one light or a whole strand out on the house. He says, “Come to me all who weary and carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest.” Jesus wants to ignite a spark in your heart today so that we can have a merry and bright Christmas. It doesn’t matter if the Christmas play is not perfect. Truthfully it is all the mistakes and miscues that keep it real. What would happen if rather than trying to make Christmas perfect, we focused on the One who perfected it? Jesus is the reason for this season. He is the only one who really matters. What difference does it make if we create the perfect Christmas but do not experience the Living Light that is within us trying to make His Way out of us so others will come to know our Savior, too?

Like our neighbor with the simple statement posted in their yard, what good is the Truth without the Light that comes with it. I can tell people that God loves them. I can even tell them all the ways that He has blessed me. But until I become like the Light and immerse my words in the Light of love and good deeds, the words continue to fall on cold, untrusting hearts. The Light of His Love is the warmth that melts hard hearts and attracts weary souls. We must walk in the Light even when it makes us a little uncomfortable. Through us, Jesus will make this season merry and bright for those who we choose to share the Light of His Love with and in the process will change our hearts and minds, too. Lord, make my light shine before others so they will experience the Light of Your Love today, too.

John 8:12 (NLT) Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

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