Time to SHINE!
by Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Here in Connecticut, darkness descends each day at 4:30, so that’s when the clear lights on our screen porch Christmas tree turn on. And, if I’m home, I run around to light the candoliers in each of our windows. So eager we are to shine some brightness into our neighborhood, our world, our lives….
Anything to dispel the encroaching darkness…
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. Isaiah 9.2
Because the world is actually quite dark, isn’t it? A year ago most of us never dreamed
- that multiple beheadings would be a part of the evening news,
- that a deadly disease like Ebola would kill thousands and threaten paranoia,
- that teenage girls could be kidnapped by the hundreds and never heard from again.
And perhaps there are dark places in your own life this year. Are you experiencing a special disappointment? A financial struggle? A fractured relationship? The death or a dream? A health scare? An empty place at the holiday table?
How do we celebrate Christmas with Joy? How do we celebrate the New Year with Hope?
With Light. Jesus – the Light of the World.
Christmas is all about God’s plan to dispel darkness. – by sending a Child.
Most of us are familiar with the Christmas story. We know about God. But do we know God? You see, what matters is faith — not a religion, but a relationship. That’s why God became a man, so we could know Him as a friend, as well as Savior and Lord. And you and I can count on that Love.
Now, we are already into our second week of Advent – the season of waiting for the Light to appear. What are you waiting for?
Are you waiting to receive that great present? Sometimes I think I’m waiting to experience that perfect family gathering with diverse loved ones all in agreement and full of praise for me as the matriarch. (like in Proverbs 31 when “her children rise up and call her blessed”)
Perhaps you’ve been waiting a long time for that feeling to go away. You know the one that keeps reminding you that you’re not enough and never will be, the one where you are looking for something that will make everything else fall into place. But it’s just beyond reach…
The first Christmas happened in the midst of a people who had spent 400 years waiting in the dark for deliverance. People just like you and me. Wanting to hope, but wary of yet another disappointment.
A Messiah had been promised, so over the years they fashioned Him in their minds to be a great King – a mighty Super Hero. No one ever dreamed to look for a baby. In a barn. But God’s ways are not our ways.
The world into which that baby was born was pretty dark too. It was ruled by King Herod – a man so evil that he killed his own family when they disagreed with him. Under this cruel ruler, lives were disposable, promises broken, politics dangerous, and trusting others extremely risky.
God sent Light. In a most unusual way. To this day we celebrate Christmas with symbols of stars and twinkling lights to remind us that the Light has truly come into the world. And that the darkness cannot and will not extinguish it.
How can we live in the Light every day? How can we be the light?
We can choose to Shine. We can make a deliberate choice for light over darkness. In our thoughts. In our homes. In our actions. And in our words. The words we utter can crush a spirit and wound a soul. But different words can change a life and give wings to a dream.
We embrace the Light of the World every time we remember that Jesus’ name is truly Emmanuel – which means God with us. Which means we are never alone. Even if we feel alone.
Because the world is dark. But life in this world is also beautiful and good.
You or someone you love was given a second chance this year to make it right. You or someone you love recently celebrated a milestone – 3 years sober, 10 years married, balanced the checkbook, got the last kid through college. Something good.
As my Daddy used to say, “It’s a Great Day to be Alive.” Not because it’s a perfect day or a perfect season or a perfect year. But because God loves you and has granted you another day to love Him back, to serve Him through loving others and to discover your destiny — shining for Him.
How can we Shine in the remaining days of this Christmas season?
- Remain calm. Set the tone in your home. If you have chosen to spend quiet moments with God each day it will show in your spirit and in your demeanor and in your voice.
- Decide what’s important for you during the holidays and then pursue that. If it’s writing cards or giving gifts or having parties or going to concerts or worship, then make sure that happens. Start new family traditions.
- If this is a lean Christmas or a lonely Christmas, let it be. Just don’t waste it.Spend some quiet time asking God to show you His next step for your life. And then be willing to follow Him. He can turn even a small flicker into a sparkling flame eventually.
Time to Shine. To receive the Light. To be the Light – to your family, your work colleagues, your neighbors – those you know and those you don’t. Time to Shine your unique self to the world because the Light within has reminded you that you are greatly Loved, totally Accepted, and filled with Power and Purpose because of this Child who came.
Christmas is God’s Love Story. The Christmas we choose this year will become Our Story. May it be one of Light, Joy and Hope.