Be The Christmas Light

“You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others,
so that they may see your good works and give glory
to your Father who is in heaven.”

(Matthew 5:14–16)

Christmas is nearly here, and one sign of the times is the Christmas lights.  I make no reservations here, those lights are the bane of my existence, the kryptonite to my Christmas joy.

But not everyone feels the way I do about Christmas lights.  There are those who make Christmas lights on their house an art form.  There are also those who take the lights from artistic expression to sheer garishness, inspired by the lighting designs of Clark Griswold himself.

I remember watching Crazy Charlie out in his front yard on the day after Thanksgiving, with all the decorations and Christmas lights strewn all over the place. He had his Christmas music blaring away for the whole neighborhood to hear, as he busily worked at putting up the decorations. And of course once again, just like every other year, you could hear him fussin’ and a cussin’ above the music as he desperately tried to untangle all of those Christmas lights.

Finally, after several hours of his fussin’ and a cussin’, good old Charlie had all the lights and decorations in place. By that time it was already dark outside and it was time to light up the display (or to be honest, the whole neighborhood ).  With the “Little Drummer Boy” blaring away, Charlie plugged in the lights and WHAMMO . . . in the blink of an eye, the whole neighborhood was lit up bright as day!

While we all love the lights of Christmas, how much better, how much brighter, the whole world would be if all those people putting up Christmas lights were to know the true Light of the World.  In John 8:12 Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  How much better the whole world would be if we all carried that light within us as we read about in Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

How much better things would be in this world if we carried that light forward to share it with others as we read in Matthew 5:14&16, “You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Friends, my lights are up, and yours may be as well, but that does not mean that our job is done.  When you know the Light of the World, when Christ is your light and your salvation, won’t you shine as a light for the world to see.  This Christmas, may the brightest light the world sees be the light of your love for God and for your neighbor.

All Roads Lead There

“Lord, it is good that we are here…”
(Matthew 17:4)

I want to begin this week’s message with a word of “Thanks” to all who helped to make the Cherokee Community Theater Production of A Christmas Carol: The Musical such a success. (You may find some pictures at www.cherokeect.org).   To the over 60 cast members, the orchestra, the flight crew, the directors, and the fantastic audience (a sell-out for almost every show), this was truly a fantastic experience.  Performing with such a talented troupe before such an enthusiastic audience every night was a joy, and ending every show with a standing ovation and the (faux) snow coming down while singing “God Bless us Everyone!” is a memory I will carry for a lifetime.

And perhaps that is why this week has come with a tremendous sense of “Post-Production Letdown.”  For three months nearly every evening was spent at the theater in rehearsal, laughing with friends, exploring characters, learning challenging music – being a part of something very special.  The show ended Sunday night, and on Monday I was back at the office, preparing for a committee meeting, studying for a sermon, planning Sunday worship.

One of the best compliments I heard following the show was that we should take the production on the road, that it was better than anything they’ve seen at the Orpheum.  While very kind, I shudder at the thought of trying to take this production anywhere.  After 8 shows over two weekends, I am ready for the show to be over.  Still, I miss being part of something so special, something that worked so well.  Then I tell myself, it wasn’t real.  It was a play, it was Community Theater.  It was great, but it isn’t permanent.  Life will go on, and the bills will keep coming, so it’s back to life, back to reality.

I wonder if this is sort of what it was like for Peter, James, and John, when they were on the mountain with Jesus as he was transfigured before them, with Moses and Elijah appearing, and the voice of God speaking from the heavens.  Okay, it’s probably nothing like that, but I can understand the sentiment of Peter when he said to Jesus, “It is good for us to be here. Let me make three tents, we’ll make camp here, and we can usher in the Kingdom right here and now.”  Peter didn’t want to have to go back down the mountain, to face the real world.  The glory, the joy, the paradise he glimpsed in that moment was something to hold on to.

Or consider Mary.  A new baby in her arms and the shepherds had come to share what the angels had heralded from the sky, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and good will to men.”  Wise men brought their gifts, rich treasures fit for a king.  But the baby had to grow.  There was no stopping that.  And there was no stopping what was to come.  The prophet Simeon, after blessing the family at the Temple, turned to Mary and warned her, “a sword will pierce through your own soul also.”

The hymn What Child is This? has us sing,

Why lies he in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear; for sinners here the silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce him through, the cross be borne for me, for you;
Hail, hail the Word made flesh, the babe, the son of Mary.

This is why He came.  We cannot avoid it, we cannot get around it.  At the center of the history of all mankind stands a cross, and we must come to it, even in the midst of our Christmas.  We must eventually leave the nativity for it.  We must sometime or other come down from the mountain for it.  For it is at the cross where God deals with our sinfulness, it is at the cross where the debt is paid, it is at the cross where forgiveness is found, it is at the cross where the fountain of grace bursts forth.

SDG