It is always pretty neat when someone comes up and compliments me on the Christmas lights and decorations that we have on our house. They often want to find out how long it took me to put them all up! The funny thing is that I didn’t’ grow up with a ton of lights outside of our house for Christmas, if at all, but I have always been fasicnated by Christmas lights. I used to sit on Christmas morning, just staring at the Christmas tree all light up in the darkness. When I was super sick a few weeks ago, I just stared out the window at our lights and it made me feel a little better.
I think I put up so much stuff because I know that others enjoy it. I remember as a kid walking down the street from my grandparents to see the huge Christmas light display on this house. They had all sorts of moving figures and everything and there was always a decent crowd. I know that people like to drive by the house to look at the lights and if it gives people a moment of joy, then it is worth all the work. For myself, I know there are times when I have come home from a long day and it is just a little uplift when I see the lights on the house.
Christmas is often a time where we shine our lights in the midst of darkness, and as I reflect and think about life and the world at this moment, I have been feeling and seeing a shroud of darkness that threatens to envelope our world. That darkness is fear. President Franklin Delanor Roosevelt once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I see fear creeping into every part of our lives. I see it in our schools, our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our families. I see it in the way we interact with each other. I even see it in our churches. The scent of fear seems everywhere.
Frankly, I can understand it. Mass shootings seeminlgy every week. Terrorist attacks at home and abroad. War and conflict that seems to be never ending. Rhetoric from politicians and the media that inflame and stoke our deepest fears and insecruties. Family strife, cancer and other health issues, natural disasters, tragedy and death. With all of this and more occuring, no wonder we have started to live as people enveloped and consumed by fear. It seems that the light has almost gone out in the world.
As Yoda once said in the Star Wars movies, “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” And that is what troubles me so much. Fear will always be there but now we are letting it rule us, we are letting it guide our actions and betraying our own selves. Fear is making us target people different than us and having people put forth proposals that would have made the Nazi’s proud. Fear is starting to make us turn on the concept of religious freedom which America is founded on. Fear is starting to make us suspect our neighbors and to shut down dialog with people that think differently than us. We think of people with different views from us as our enemy. We are starting to deal in absolutes instead of listening to each other and trying to understand each other.
Even worse, we are starting to betray our own faith as disciples of Jesus Christ. Christ came to shine light into darkness and to drive away fear and to bring hope. Instead of seeing the best of each other, instead of looking at the world of eyes of compassion and grace, we are seeing only the worst of each other and having no compassion. We are not living in hope, a hope that comes in trusting and believing in something greater than ourselves. We are forgetting that we are all our God’s children, all of us, and that instead of fear we are to bring love, forgiveness, grace, and hope to a world that needs it.
Jesus tells us to be the light of the world, to be the Christmas lights that shine brightly in the darkness. And we need to proclaim a voice of hope in a world that is steadlily losing it. We need to stand up to hate, to bigotry in all its forms. We are called to welcome the orphan and the stranger, the hopeless and the sinner. We are callled to proclaim peace and to serve ALL in need. We are called to proclaim something greater than fear: hope. We can proclaim hope because we belong to Christ. Jesus says to us in John 14, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
The prophet Isaiah proclaims God’s word in chapter 43 when he says, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” “YOU ARE MINE.” We belong to God and because of this, fear cannot and should not rule us. We have nothing to fear because Christ has taken care of everything. The angels sing and the shephereds rejoice in the Christmas story because the Messiah has come to destroy fear, sin, and death. As it says in John 1, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
Do not let darkness overcome this world, people of God. Do not fear and hate become the norm. Shine your light. Proclaim the Good New of Christ and the love of God for all people. Remind others that our nature is not fear but compassion, grace, and love. Be that house full of Christmas lights that gives a little joy. Shine brightly trusting and knowing that you belong to your Savior who has given everything for you. As it says in again in Isaiah 43, “Dor not fear, for I am with you.” For that we can say, “Thanks be to God!”
Have a very Merry Christmas! Let your light shine!