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Light the Night

Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”- Luke 1:78-79

One of the most mesmerizing, marvelous, and merry sights of the Christmas season is to see neighborhoods, hillsides, and city streets light up the night. I absolutely love to see the vast and beautiful array of lights that brilliantly declare this season of joy and peace. There are two specific areas, when driving through town, that I always look forward to getting a chance to witness during the month of December. First, I love driving south on the 23 Freeway coming towards Thousand Oaks. The houses on the hillside are radiant in splendor, with the Reagan Library providing a stunning centerpiece to the Christmas light landscape. When I am looking to slow down from the rush of the season, I will often forego the freeway drive home, replacing it with a westbound route on Lynn Road. Again, the “light show” is on full display as people will decorate just about everything (from houses to palm trees to mailboxes even to vehicles). The lights are so beautiful that I can’t get enough of them…the more the merrier and the brighter the better if you ask me (this is a “No Grinch” Zone).

I am pretty sure that I am not alone in having an affinity for the Christmas aglow all around us. People line up for the lights! There are neighborhoods throughout the southland that have earned the reputation of being the best in terms of Christmas decorations. Those special places have even been dubbed with special nicknames (I remember “Candy Cane Lane” in the Valley) and have cars lining their streets every night. There are cities that highlight their holiday happenings with a “Tree Lighting” event, where hundreds come to celebrate. Even the shopping malls and amusement parks have gotten into the act. This week we took Mia to Disneyland to take in all the festive fun. As afternoon turned to evening there came a moment where the masses of people stopped from rushing to the next ride, the next show, and the next souvenir shop. For one moment people froze on Main Street to watch as the Castle lights were turned on. As I said earlier, people are mesmerized by the lights of Christmas.

For us who BELIEVE, the celebration of Christmas is also about LIGHT. But it is not the lights you find on a tree or on a house. It is the light that has shone and come down from heaven in Jesus Christ! Just as God’s very first act/gift to His creation was the infusion of light (Genesis 1:3), the salvation plan and promise was the ushering forth of the True Light of the Messiah to a people lost, blind, and without hope. John 1:9 tells us of the very first and very best Christmas gift, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” Jesus delivers light in the darkness, hope to the hopeless, love to the heartbroken, salvation to the sinner, and life to the dead. Look at how our hearts and lives were brought into the complete illumination of Jesus’ light and love in Colossians 1:12-13, “and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.”

The more we look upon the Word of God and the story of God’s people, the more we see that His presence is displayed through a glorious light: Moses encounters God at a burning bush; Israel is led through the wilderness by a pillar of fire by night; the Wise Men are led to Bethlehem by a star; and the shepherds in the field receive a Christmas greeting that makes even the Disney Castle lighting ceremony seem ordinary. Luke 2:9 describes the celestial scene, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.”

The light of Christmas is not just in what God SENDS to us but in how we SHINE for Him! As a people who believe in His Son we are called to let our light shine (Matthew 5:14-16). There is no better time for us to get brighter and bolder than during these twenty-five days of December! Our houses do not need to be the most decorated on our street and we do not need to be the owner of the biggest tree among our friends. Rather, our hearts should be so filled by the light of Jesus to such a degree that nobody has a happier smile or a more hopeful outlook on what the future holds and what God can do. God wants our light to attract people in order to announce that Jesus is the GIFT they need most this Christmas. Here are some simple things you can do this Christmas to shine your beautiful light:

1) Smile more and say “Merry Christmas” to as many people as possible.

2) Include outfits with Christmas colors, themes, and sayings which cause your wardrobe to be a conversation starter with others.

3) Invite someone to attend our Christmas Eve Service (Monday- 12/24 at 4:30 pm).

4) Identify a family that has a financial burden and offer to be a “Secret Santa” for their children’s gifts.

5) Deliver a batch of cookies/goodies to the neighbors on your street or apartment floor.

6) Bring in Starbucks or Western Bagel to the office one morning (*ask your supervisor for permission).

7) At a family gathering ask to read the Christmas story from the Bible before opening presents and/or ask to say a prayer before the meal.

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