In 1 Thessalonians, Paul admonishes Christians to recognize that they are children of light. As such, they have the advantages that light affords. To have the full benefit, however, of dwelling in the Light, the Christian has the responsibility of watching, being sober, and being girded with a breastplate of faith and love and a helmet of the hope of salvation. As the light cast its beam, the children in it had to open their eyes and see.
Light provides an atmosphere for wakefulness. Just as sunlight streaming through a window creates motivation for a person to rise and embrace the day, God’s light provides that nudge in the spirit for a person to open his spiritual eyes and behold. No wonder the word “behold” is used so often in the Bible. Perhaps it announces things that the children of Light should be seeing.
Like the teenager who rolls over, pulls the covers over his head, and falls back asleep, we can succumb to the temptation to sleep through the spiritual. Just as easily, we can use the benefit of dwelling in the Light to stop and really see. Because the Light is shining, we can see clearly and objectively to gain wisdom for life. Furthermore, we are not overtaken by the enemy’s attack since God has shined his revealing light on that which is planned against us. In addition, the Light uncovers the truth about us. We see our wrongdoing, and we see that we are both forgiven and restored. The Light shines into our hearts, and suddenly we see our blessings with great clarity, and we know true joy. We look in the mirror and see our true identity, a child of light, loved by God. The Light reveals it all. It simply shines; our job is to behold. If we allow the Light to do its work in our lives, then we can gain holy awareness that those who stumble in darkness do not know.
At the time of Jesus’ birth, the Light was shining brightly, but the religious were sleeping. They were completely unaware that the eternal God of glory was manifest in their midst. In like manner, we can put the sacred aside just as easily as people put the Savior in the stable that very first Christmas. Yet, equally so, we can be wise men who continue to look to the light, and as such, seek-and find-the Savior. We have an opportunity this Christmas season to become mindful of the Light, to awaken and really see what the Light reveals, and to follow the signs that point to His soon return.
The Light that came to earth that first Christmas is still shining; therefore, we can see, for the Light illuminates our world. Whether through traditions or finding places of stillness, we can allow Christmas Light to shine into our spirits more now than at any other time of the year.
****The following are some opportunities our family has used to incorporate awareness of the Light of the world and make Jesus the focus of the Christmas season.
-reenactment of the Christmas story as told in Luke 2. We’ve done this a variety of ways. One year, we had an adult dress up as the innkeeper’s wife and tell the story from her perspective while the children played the roles of the main characters. Another time, each person got part to read. A different year, we used carols interspersed between Bible verses to help tell the story. One of the funniest renditions, a year we incorporated the animals of the Christmas story into our reenactment, had my niece playing the part of the donkey for Mary. Amidst much galloping and prodding by Joseph, the holy family finally made it to Bethlehem.
-scavenger hunts. The wise men have followed the star in a variety of different methods, one of which was looking for clues written on star-shaped paper. Another required figuring out riddles as they searched for their present, and discovered the best present of all in a manger under the tree.
-the Jesus Box. The Jesus Box contains our gifts to Jesus. I usually try to either wrap it in a special paper, adorn it with a gold ribbon, or use a gold gift bag for it. In recent years, it sits under our special ornament tree, a tree that is apart from the one under which family presents gather. Our gifts to Jesus have ranged from items (like a watch, which someone used to tell Jesus they were vowing to give Him more time, and a toy soldier to indicate someone was willing to become a soldier in the Lord’s army) to coloring sheets, pictures, and poems. Always heartfelt, the gifts may be something that we would give a friend, or they may express an area of commitment to God, either a talent we plan to use for him or a weakness we plan to conquer.
-spiritual readings. From pop-up kids’ books telling the Christmas story, to Max Laccado’s No Wonder They Call Him the Savior, the season is sprinkled with spiritual readings and sharing.
-remembrances. This year, our Christmas Eve theme is Memory Lane, and as such, we will share with one another about the special things that God has done for us. These will not be simple statements of gratitude, but they will be a sharing of the poignant moments in which God was especially personal to us.
-happy birthday. Most Christmas mornings we sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. On one occasion, my daughter and niece made Him a birthday cake, complete with candles that they “helped” Him blow out.
-others. Our Christmas wouldn’t be complete if it were all about us. We enjoy connecting with others through giving and celebrations; it is one way that we remember the Greatest Blesser and Giver of all. Christmas is an opportunity to bond with family and friends, and we do, but it is also a time to involve others. Because of the planned celebrations, it’s easy to scoop up a few extra people and move beyond mere acquaintanceship. They feel less put on the spot, and you have that “reason” to get with them. We’ve developed several lasting relationships that were deepened around our Christmas gatherings, as well as our participation in church programs. This year, our Christmas lunch will include a family who is in transition and only temporarily in our city. Another guest will be an international single mom who is state-side on a work visa. A recently divorced friend will also be a part of our celebration. These people, like those who’ve visited in times past, will add richness to the day and flavor to our lives, even though they may not be a permanent part of our on-going traditions. The less fortunate are a part of our Christmas focus. Taking a child shopping, giving to a charity, or sponsoring a family are ways we have enjoyed adding God to our season. One year we gave a monetary donation to our church bus ministry and received an ornament with a child’s first name on it. Although we did not know the child personally, we still remember him each Christmas when we place that ornament on our tree. Aside from monetary donations, gifts of prayer are especially needed at Christmas. So many people are hurting and lonely this time of year. When we reach out to others, we are practicing the nature of Christ. It is perhaps why this holiday is enjoyed world-wide; it has in it the heart of Christ, love for mankind.
-stillness. Sitting by a lit tree in the quiet is a super way to put God in the season. In the quiet, listen for His love, thank Him for His peace, and enjoy the interaction with His presence.
When we become more mindful of Jesus’ nearness, we can experience the true spirit of Christmas, the Good Tidings that the Light of the world has come.