by Jeannie Waters
When I was eight years old, I longed for Thanksgiving dinner to end. The minute hand on my grandmother’s mantle clock refused to rush, as did my family. They savored the taste of turkey and sweet potato soufflé, while wrinkling their noses at the oyster dressing. The adults laughed at old family stories and lingered over coffee and coconut cake far too long to suit me.
After dessert, we rode downtown in Daddy’s 1955 Chevy. As soon as we pulled into a parking space, my brother and I hopped out and scurried down the sidewalk eager to observe the event of the year—the annual Christmas parade.
When drum beats from the first marching band sounded, my dad lifted me onto the trunk of the car for a better view of the sparkling floats staggered between the bands. The parade’s caboose—Santa’s sleigh—served as the launching pad for cascades of candy canes.
The parade delighted me, but the after-dark return trip to the downtown area topped my list of holiday activities. Daddy didn’t park the ’55 this time. Instead, he cruised, as slowly as traffic allowed, past block after block of seasonal storefront displays. The usual soft glow of streetlights disappeared as necklaces of bright, colorful lightbulbs draped from pole to pole, illuminated the area. The dazzling lights transformed the downtown streets and signaled a change—the beginning of the Christmas season.
One night centuries ago, dazzling light pierced the dark countryside to announce the beginning of another new season, this one activated by a history-changing event—the birth of Christ. When the messenger of the Lord appeared to a group of shepherds, God’s glory shone around them (Luke 2:9). The sleepy men likely shielded their eyes from the intensity of the light as the angel said, Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people (Luke 2:10 NKJV*).
Later, God used a star to guide the wise men to the house where Mary, Joseph, and Jesus lived (Matthew 2:9-11). The radiant light of God’s glory and the brilliance of a star spotlighted the good news and ushered in a new era. The Messiah would dwell on earth, suffer crucifixion, and return to heaven’s glory. Then He would reside in the hearts of those who believed on His name (John 1:12).
The Messiah said of Himself, I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life (John 8:12). Jesus is the light that shined into the darkness of my heart decades ago.
During my teen years, I read my Bible and tried to please God by avoiding sinful attitudes and actions. Each day ended with failure. One Sunday morning, a guest speaker at my church explained the difference in knowing about God and knowing Him in a personal relationship. That night, I knelt beside my bedroom window and gazed at the stars. I confessed my sin and surrendered to Jesus and His lordship. Sometimes when I look at the stars, I remember the night
Jesus entered my heart and ushered in a new season of life for me, a journey of following Him, the Light of the World.
As I embarked on that journey and began to study the Bible, a statement He made to the crowd of followers on the hillside, and to future believers, puzzled me. He said, You are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). Why did He describe believers in the same way He described Himself?
Jesus continued His hillside message with an object lesson. After saying to believers, You are the light of the world, He added, A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16). One summary of this is, “Let your inward character be expressed in an outward influence.”1
Ponder this privilege of grace: God saves us and chooses to display the gospel through us. Only God could design the miracle of sinful people becoming bearers of His light (2 Corinthians 4:7).
Each sunrise launches a fresh adventure for believers. How can we live so that the light of Jesus in us beams forth with intensity to draw attention to Him? How can we walk as children of light … finding out what is acceptable to the Lord (Ephesians 5:8, 10)?
Three Ways to Shine the Light of Jesus
- Pray and study God’s Word.
We can discern what is pleasing to the Lord by studying His Word and by praying for the Holy Spirit to teach us how to be a shining light. He will equip us to do His will and provide opportunities for us to shine for His glory (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We can pray with the psalmist:
Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, for in You do I trust; cause me to know the way in which I should walk, for I lift up my soul to You. (Psalm 143:8)
- Imitate our Father.
As God’s children, we shine with clarity when we imitate our Father by living according to His actions and words recorded in Scripture. The interactions of Jesus with those He met on the dusty roads of His earthly visit, exemplify traits we are to emulate. God molds us closer to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) as we study, and He enables us to imitate Him more faithfully.
As you read and pray, list character traits of God and examples of Jesus extending love. Spending time with God allows Him to kindle His light within us and make us more like Him.
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us. (Ephesians 5:1-2)
- Radiate His love and grace.
Bible scholar Matthew Henry paints a clear word picture of God’s plan: “The treasure of gospel light and grace is put into clay vessels.”2 The Apostle Paul’s words explain how God’s light in us influences the world.
We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)
As we notice Christmas lights this year, let’s ponder the light of the gospel that shines from our lives as a beacon of God’s love. As we celebrate Immanuel, Christ who came to dwell among us, let’s ask God to use our lives to glorify Him—Yeshua, our Savior, the light of the world.
When December arrives each year, the downtown lights of my childhood glow in my memory as a signal of a new season. May this Christmas and the following year herald a new season of determination to let our light so shine before men that they will see Jesus through us every day.
Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Jesus as the light of the world. Teach me to reflect Your light more brightly this Christmas and next year. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
- Why do you think God described our witness as light in the darkness?
- What is our responsibility and what is God’s part in our role as the light of the world?
- How do people you know exhibit the characteristics of Jesus?
- Ephesians 5:1 instructs us to be imitators of God as dear children. How can believers learn to imitate God in their daily lives?
- As we approach another year, how can we assess our effectiveness as light in our circles of influence? What steps will you take to align your behavior with God’s character?
*All Scripture verses are taken from the NKJV.
1 Kauffman, Beebe. A Whole Lot of Wonderful—Application of the New Testament for Today. (Buford, Georgia: Lighthouse Bible Studies, LLC, 2018), 44.
2 Matthew Henry, Revised Matthew Henry Commentary, quoted in Larry Pierce, The Online Bible (Winterbourne, Ontario: Larry Pierce, 2020), Download, 2 Corinthians 4:7 (“III, 2”).
Southern author, speaker, and blogger, Jeannie Waters shares a homespun mix of Biblical truth and heart-hugging encouragement. She’s the author of a 40-day devotional, A Place at His Table: God’s Daily Gifts to Satisfy Your Heart. Jeannie shares ideas for “Connecting with God and Each Other” at https://jeanniewaters.com/ and on social media @jeanniewaters44. Wife, mom, and Gigi, she loves picnics and cheering for the Georgia Bulldogs.
This article from our 2020 Christmas issue won the Selah Award for online articles at the 2021 Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. To see it in the magazine and check out the rest of the articles, click one of these links:
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