Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never live in darkness. They will have the light that gives life.” John 8:12
At this time of the year our world is filled with Christmas lights, music, decorations, baking, trees and gift giving. The calendars overflow with parties, programs and obligations that overwhelm us. Putting up and decorating the Christmas tree is one of the traditions of this season that I love. However, it can be a source of stress as it consumes a large chunk of time in that already-packed schedule. I have fond memories of travelling to the Christmas tree farm, drinking hot chocolate and trudging through the evergreens searching for the perfect tree. We did this only a few times with our own children. Then because we travelled at the holidays, we switched to an artificial tree, for safety and convenience sake. At first we had the old fashioned kind that you needed to string the lights just as you would on a real tree. Now, we have a pre-lit tree – making the process much easier. Imagine my frustration this year when we turned on the tree, and I noticed one dark space, right in the middle of the tree. An entire section of lights had burned out and we could not figure out a way to fix it. This was an annoying inconvenience because we could not decorate the tree until these lights were fixed. I needed to go out and purchase a string of lights to lace through the burnt out section. I didn’t have the time to do this right away. So for about a week, I just turned on the lights of the undecorated tree to enjoy that magical glow.
In the early morning hours, I’d sit and do my devotions in the cozy atmosphere created by the sparking lights. On one of those days, while I was praying for loved ones and friends, that dark spot became more prominent. I was praying for friends who have recently experienced loss, others who are fighting life-threatening diseases and ones who are facing difficult life transitions, not to mention the many families crushed by the tragic acts of violence in the world. As I prayed for strength and peace, it became poignantly obvious that not everyone is feeling the nostalgic warmth of the Christmas season. In fact, the very decorations, lights and music that bring joy and comfort to my Christmas season trigger painful memories for others.
In a season when we are rejoicing in the birth of Jesus Christ, the light of the world, there are many hearts that are shrouded with darkness. Their songs of joy have been replaced with reminiscent mournful melodies. Instead of schedules crowded with holiday festivities and concerts, their time is prioritized with doctor’s appointments and medication schedules. Instead of a house filled with holiday smells and sounds, they are struggling to keep food on the table and stay warm. Instead of feeling the comfort of family, there is a haunting heartache that perpetuates loneliness, sometimes even when surrounded by loved ones.
John 1 reminds us that “ In Jesus was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, who came to bring light to a dark world. His light brings compassion to the hurting, healing to the sick, comfort to the grieving, hope to the disheartened and salvation to the lost.
If you are hurting and lonely during this Christmas season, my prayer is that Christ will surround you with His love and light. May God supply the strength, hope and comfort for the challenge or loss that consumes your energy. If you find joy in this season, may your heart be focused on Christ’s light and love. May God open your eyes to be sensitive to those who need support and encouragement. Take time to be a vessel of His love and light.
Dear Jesus, It is the season we celebrate your birth. The world has filled this holiday with many distractions from the true meaning, but we want to focus on your purpose, your hope and your love. Thank you for reminders, like burnt out lights, that help us realize that too often we focus and worry about the unimportant. Comfort and strengthen those who are struggling this holiday season and give them hope in the days to come. You are the light of the world and, as your children, we are called to be the bearers of your light in a dark world. Amen