Living in God’s Light

People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for. -Harper Lee

When you set out to purposely find something, it’s interesting how apparent it becomes. I am looking for light. All sorts of light, really. It is a suggested Christmas activity in a book I am reading.

Of course, this time of year we see Christmas lights on trees, in neighborhoods and in shopping malls. There is sunlight, fluorescent light, and screen light from our many electronic devices.

There are lights that don’t physically glow, but instead brighten our spirits. They shine, for example, when other hurried shoppers make conversation with us or when we enjoy the outdoors. We feel them when we meet a friend for lunch, hear of a good deed, or spend time with family.

The word “enlightenment” itself contains “light”. Gaining insight from Scripture, meditating, or praying for understanding brings this light.

In the New International Version of the Bible, the word “light” appears 232 times, and closer to 300 times in other versions. Clearly, light reigns as an important theme in faith. What does “light” mean in the Bible, and how does it apply to us?

What does light mean in the Bible?

Light’s significance in the Bible starts immediately in Genesis 1, with the story of God creating the earth.

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.” And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day. Genesis 1:3 New Living Translation (NLT)

On the very first day, God set out to separate light from dark. Then, throughout the Bible, light continually refers to God and to the removal of darkness. It becomes a metaphor for many things including life, love, goodness, truth, and salvation. In the stories told, God’s goodness is always sovereign over evil. In no instance is darkness ever equal to the light that is God’s power.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. John 1:5 NLT

Unquestionably for the Christian faith, God’s greatest work of light is Jesus. As the Son of God, his life models the way to live in God’s light.

The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. John 1:9

Light in the Bible is synonymous to God and all of his good. Proclaiming faith in God’s light illuminates the darkness in our lives and works to extinguish it. 

What does darkness mean? How can we find our way out of it? 

When we think of darkness, we think of death and sinful, evil, or awful things. But, darkness may also exist due to a lack of knowledge, unintentional circumstances, or choices made. And, sometimes busyness, distractions, and self-centeredness can lead to us dark places as well. Life is good at dishing out darkness and we often find ourselves lost.

But, every day Jesus offers us a new opportunity, with no expiration date, to see and live in his light.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Taking steps to follow the life Jesus modeled helps us start seeing more light around us. We become more mindful and recognize when life is becoming muddled. We get better at noticing the slick spots around us and find surer footing to meet our goals. Bettering ourselves and serving others gradually become higher priorities.

Packed with Jesus’ words and teachings, the Bible lights the way as we walk through life. It reveals the things in this world that trip us up, and it shines light on every situation we come across.

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105 NLT

We can find our way through darkness by following the life Jesus modeled for us. By learning about him and believing in him, we experience his guidance through the Holy Spirit. 

Living in God’s Light

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'” Matthew 1:23 NLT 

This week we celebrate Jesus’ birth, an event which divided darkness from light in this world. His life delivered light and hope; his death and resurrection wiped away darkness by offering believers eternal life.

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. 2 Corinthians 4:6 NLT

Jesus, Immanuel, is God with us. He shines through us by way of the Holy Spirit as we mature in faith and reflect Christ’s nature. We are works in progress while we are here. Through faith we can work to understand how God’s plans help us contribute to his light. We live in light through fellowship with God and with others who help us find goodness in a world that is often dark. 

Christmas is more than festivities and time spent with family. It is more than understanding the story of Jesus’ birth. Christmas celebrates light – the light of Jesus, and the light of you and me. There is a lot of light in this world. It is found all around us and inside of us. We can see it. People generally see what they go looking for…

A Prayer for Your Week:

Dear God,

Thank you for another Christmas to celebrate the birth of your son, Jesus, who brought light into our world through his life, his teachings, and ultimately his sacrifice. Teach us and guide us as we strive to model his character more each day. Help us to clearly see the opportunities you place in our paths to do your work, and to recognize the work of others. We pray to see your goodness shining bright in the midst of the darkness this world so often delivers. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Resources:

Turning Christmas Upside Down

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Our Thanksgiving leftovers were still warm when my husband and I started pulling out the Christmas decorations last weekend. With only four amazingly short weeks between holidays, I am sure many of you can relate to our anxious excitement to get a jump-start on the to-do list. After an initial whirlwind of decorating the tree, setting up the manger, and hanging the stockings, I took a break and went for a walk.

There is a certain loop I follow on most of my walks. It winds through the woods, past a pond, into a neighborhood, and back again. Because I am a creature of habit, I usually walk the same direction on this route each time. On this particular day, I decided to live life a little more on the edge and traveled the opposite way. Daring, I know!

Have you noticed how doing things backwards or turning things upside down often brings a different perspective and teaches you something new? This walk was no exception. I came back with a fresh outlook about my walking route and about preparing for Christmas. I was ready to turn Christmas upside down.

What does turning Christmas upside down mean?

The usual preparations for Christmas include decorating, shopping, baking, wrapping, entertaining, mailing holiday greetings, etc. – done in an “orderly” fashion for each household, of course 😉 . When Christmas Eve arrives, many celebrate Jesus by going to church for an hour or so. Some will read the Bible story of Jesus’ birth. In comparison to everything else done in December, little time is dedicated to learning about Jesus until Christmas actually arrives.

Turning Christmas upside down means celebrating and learning about Jesus throughout the month instead of at the end of the month.  

How can we benefit by turning Christmas upside down?

  • We learn new things about Jesus.

Traveling the opposite way on my walk brought a changed perspective on my surroundings. For example, from a different vantage point I realized the huge, beautiful weeping willow tree I pass almost every day was no longer there – only a stump remained. I wondered if it had been gone a long time, and how I missed noticing the emptiness.

In a similar way, turning Christmas upside down helps us see things about Jesus we did not notice before. Reading Bible passages about his birth throughout the month brings ideas to mind that we are unable to take in all at once on Christmas Eve.  Enjoying a new book about the meaning of Christmas or participating in an online Bible study provides learning and a break from holiday activity. Working on a Christmas service project lessens distractions by helping us focus on others. Or, simply carving out some time for prayer can bring us closer to knowing Jesus. All these things send us a different way than the norm.

Activities that help us see Jesus throughout the month deliver knowledge we did not even know we were missing.

  •  We become more aware of Jesus in everyday life.

I’ll fess up. Coming at the scenery of my walk in a different direction made me feel a little out of my element. Because the walk was not done in my natural pattern, I worried that I might miss the normal turns in the neighborhood. As a result, my brain jerked to attention and I became more aware of my surroundings.

Turning Christmas upside down also makes us feel uneasy. There are a million things to do besides focusing on Jesus, right? It feels more natural to get on with the shopping and the wrapping and the planning. But, if we change our route to include Jesus in each day, we begin to notice his love more during the month. We pay attention when our circumstances improve or we learn from them. We smile more and tell people we appreciate them. We thank our loved ones and really mean it. We notice how God is working for our good every day.

Heightening our awareness of Jesus naturally makes us more alert to his goodness in everything we do. 

  • We slow down and enjoy our holiday time.

Learning new things and becoming more aware on my walk caused me to slow down and enjoy myself more. While walking in the opposite direction, I was not lost in thought or on exercise autopilot. My environment captured my attention, and I found myself feeling grateful for that.

If the same logic applies, then learning new things about Jesus and becoming more aware of him in the midst of our preparations will also help us slow down and enjoy our holiday time more.

Taking time to learn and look for Jesus as we walk (don’t run) towards Christmas brings us more gratitude and peace.

So, I am almost finished with my decorating. Yesterday, I placed a snow globe on the table in the entry way. I love snow globes and the miniature magical lands inside them. Everything appears so pristine, orderly, and still while they sit right side up.

Looking at mine like this, I think it’s pretty, but hmm… also kind of boring. The real magic happens when we turn it upside down and shake things around a bit. I turn the globe upside down. There…that makes it more beautiful, more interesting.

I watch the snow swirl, and I smile. A lot of things in life look better after you turn them upside down.

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A Prayer for Your December:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 NLT

Dear God,

Blessed be your name above all the other things competing for our attention this holiday season. Thank you for the precious gift of your son, sent to offer us eternal life with you. Help us walk in a different direction towards Christmas this year. Bring us new opportunities to learn about Jesus and show us how we can serve you. Open our eyes to your joy in all the preparations we undertake. May we enjoy our walk with you this month, and be filled with the peace and gratitude that comes from spending time in your presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

 

Resources to Help Turn your Christmas Upside Down

Online Bible Study based on the book Because of Bethlehem by Max Lucado 

Scripture readings about Jesus’ birth

The Purpose of Christmas by Rick Warren on Amazon.com

A Scriptured Life posts from the 2015 Christmas season:

Christmas Countdown Challenge Week 1 -Worry

Christmas Countdown Challenge Week 2 -Expectations

Christmas Countdown Challenge Week 3 -Peace

Christmas Countdown Challenge Week 4 -Celebration

Christmas Countdown Challenge, Week 4-celebration

Christmas Star

Well, here we are at the final week of our countdown! In the past three weeks of this Christmas season, we have worked on controlling our worries, helping others, and accomplishing our to-do list with peace and determination. I think it’s time to rejoice, don’t you?

This week’s Christmas Countdown Challenge is to remember the meaning of Christmas and to rejoice in the season. I will start by writing a relevant Scripture at the top of my to-do list, and then read it throughout the week as I finish up Christmas preparations. In this last week of hurriedness, my goal is to stay focused on the Christmas story and its message of everlasting joy. Join me in celebrating! The Scripture we will focus on:

“When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!” Matthew 2:10 New Living Translation (NLT)

Here are a few actions we can take to apply this Scripture in our lives:

  • Read the nativity story as told in Luke 2. Spend some time reading Scripture that tells about the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. A life application Bible is a helpful tool for understanding the meaning of the Bible text. Searching the internet for Christmas Bible verses can also provide additional learning. After we read, let’s see if we can come up with at least three things we did not know before about this story.
  • Build family traditions. Activities that we do every year at Christmas time help our family members feel connected and special. Be sure to allow time to enjoy these activities, and not just rush to get them in. Brainstorm on new ideas to carry forward to next year. My family enjoys driving around town for a tour of lights and playing board games together. Other popular activities include: ice skating, decorating cookies, watching Christmas movies, using an Advent calendar, reading holiday books, and singing carols. Let’s find something new to try this year!
  • Celebrate the season, really. When Christmas Eve arrives, and the hustle and bustle has run out of time, let’s remember to take a breath and just celebrate the moment. After being immersed in an environment of hurry all month, it is easy to continue to feel rushed. We can take time to regroup and be fully present in conversations, taste food with gratitude, and deliver embraces with genuine care.
  • Meet the Christmas Countdown Challenge. Think back over the last four weeks and our goals for each week. This year, in a month that quickly becomes overwhelming, we sought to control worry, help others having a difficult time celebrating, accomplish our tasks with a calm sense of purpose, and rejoice in the true meaning of Christmas. Simply approaching my to-do list with these overall goals in mind, helped me keep a positive attitude and prevented me from getting swept away by my own busyness. I hope taking on this challenge helped you in some way as well. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!

Prayer for the Week:

Heavenly Father, Thank you for the greatest gift of all, your son Jesus Christ. Help me study your Word, and work to fully appreciate the meaning of this gift. Let my family’s bond be strengthened this Christmas as we spend time enjoying each other’s company and building our traditions. Remind me to look and listen for your holy presence in my celebrations. And, thank you for carrying me through the season, making sense of life through your Word.

Resources:

Attached you will find a to-do list document with the Scripture for the week displayed in the heading. Print it, if you would like, and refer to the Scripture throughout the week. Be filled with joy!

To-do List with Scripture, Week 4