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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Advent Day 11: Christmas Lights

Day 11: Christmas Lights

Meditation (3-5 Minutes)
Begin by being still before God.  Read Psalms 43:3-4 and meditate on the words.

Psalms 43:3-4 (NIV)
Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.  Then will I go to the altar of God,
to God, my joy and my delight.  I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God.

1)    Be still and know he is God. 
2)    Let him send forth his “Light and Truth.”
3)    Let his light and truth guide you.
4)    Let him bring you to his “Holy Mountain,” where he dwells.
5)    Go to “The Altar” of your “Joy” and “Delight.”
6)    Sing praises to God. 

Prayer (5-10 Minutes)

1)    Ask God to speak to you during this devotional time.

2)    Requests of the Christ Child (Appendix 1):
a)    Ask Jesus to light your way this Christmas. 
b)    If your eyes are dark, kneel before God and ask to see the world with His eyes. 
c)    Ask him to help you light the way for his children. 
d)    Appendix 1: Pray and update.

3)    Gifts from the Christ Child (Appendix 2):
a)    Thank God for the Christmas lights you see everywhere. 
b)    Thank God for sending us Jesus, the Light of the World.
c)    List the people who are lights in your life in Appendix 2.

4)    Gifts to the Christ Child (Appendix 3):
a)    Offer yourself as a Christmas light for Jesus. 
b)    Ask God to make you a light as you give gifts this Christmas.
c)    Appendix 3: Pray and update.

5)    Ask God for knowledge of his will for you this Christmas and the power to carry it out. 

6)    Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.

Bible Study (10-15 Minutes)

Think of a time when the lights of your house went out.  How did you get around?  Did you bump into furniture as you frantically looked for a flashlight or candle?  Were you feeling your way across what would have been easily crossable only moments before?  When you finally lit the room with that flashlight or candle, was there a sense of relief as a tiny beam pierced your darkness? 

Now remember the lights finally coming back on.  As light flooded the entire room, did you feel elation, as your limitations were removed?  Were you thrilled that you could walk from room to room without carrying something or setting something on fire? 

Some people live in complete spiritual darkness.  They stumble from situation to situation, feeling their way along the wall.  They live with bruises, pain, and broken bones.  Some remember a time when they had light but now have lost their way.  For others, darkness has consumed their entire life. 

Some spend their life carrying a tiny candle or flashlight.  Since they can see, they think it is enough.  They see those in total darkness and feel fortunate in comparison.  They go through life only half living.  They do not know what it could be like in a room flooded with light.  They may know Jesus as savior but they have never met him as a close friend and counselor.  Their small beam of light is gradually burning down. 

In a world of darkness, pain, and evil, God sent Jesus Christ to light the way.  If we choose, we can see the world with His eyes.  When we see with His eyes, the room is flooded with light.  Fear is gone.  We see our blessings in all circumstances.  When difficulties come, Jesus’ light gives us peace and understanding. 

Christmas lights symbolize the light of Jesus.  They remind us of his love.  We see them in shopping malls, on houses, and in church.  As Christians, we are to let the light of Jesus show through us.  This Christmas, light the darkness for those around you. 

Background Scripture

Read Genesis 1:3-4.  God invented light.  As he looked around, what was his opinion of light?  Do you agree with his assessment?  (Write your answers in your journal.) 

Read Psalms 27:1.  Who is the Lord?  Write this entire scripture in your journal.  Say it aloud.  Believe it. 

Read Matthew 4:16.  Without the light of Jesus, what land do people live in?  Do you know anyone who lives in this land?  (Write your answers in your journal.) 

Read Proverbs 13:9.  Is your lamp burning?  What happens to the lamp of the wicked?  (Write your answers in your journal.)

Read Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:14-16.  What are we supposed to do with our lamps?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read Acts 20:35.  At Christmas, we have an opportunity to be the light of the world.  We can give blessings to others.  What does the scripture say about giving?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read Matthew 6:22.  The eye is the lamp of our body.  What happens if our eyes are good?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Keep reading to Matthew 6:23.  What happens if our eyes are bad?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

The Night People

Read the scripture below.  Listen carefully to Jesus’ warning. 

John 3:19-21 NIV
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."  

My adopted son David was one of a group of people I call “The Night People.”  “Night People” are those who stay up all night and sleep all day.  I am not talking about people who work night shifts.  I am talking about people who do things that most of us cannot imagine.  I am talking about people who waste their days by playing during the night.  “Night People’s” desires are easier accomplished in the darkness.  My David was born to a family of “Night People.”  I first met him when he was six years old.  His abusive and dysfunctional biological family had recently abandoned him.  He moved in with us and we later adopted him. 

David fought his darkness but it always called him.  We gave him his first real Christmas.  Poor David was baffled when he saw a room full of toys.  Never before had Santa Clause come to see him.  We told him about Jesus and he accepted him right away.  He would sit in church, cuddled up close, and listen to every word. 

He teetered between two worlds.  He would confess and try hard for long periods.  Then, he would do something that would shock everyone around him.  He asked me one time, “Mama, am I just plan bad?  Why do I do these things?”  I tried to explain grace to David but David kept making the same mistakes repeatedly. 

When David became a teenager, he abandoned the light completely.  With us frantically searching for him, he began staying out until the middle of the night.  His activities were dangerous, illegal, and immoral.  We tried everything but the strength of the darkness was too much.  When he was 19, he slept entirely through Christmas day.  We waited as long as we could and finally opened gifts without him.  The night had taken away his day. 

David finally found The Light.  A year before he died of AIDS, he called home.  “Mama, I have found God again.  I feel so clean.”  We had a glorious year.  We celebrated one of everything.  I treasure the gifts he gave that year.  He knew he was dying and made each one special.  He died respected by his employer and surrounded by friends. 

One night as I was panicking over his high fever, he told me, “Mama, I am going to die.  You have to accept that.  Please don’t worry about me.  God has shown me where I am going.”  On June 8, 1995 my baby went home to the Light. 

The Day People

Day people are those who work hard, love God, and do the best they can.  They are not perfect nor are their lives.  They have is an eternal view of life and wear the world as a loose garment.  They rely on God, their church, and their families to help meet their needs.  They struggle but look to God for answers.  Read Jesus’ words in John 8:12.  Whoever follows him will never walk in darkness. 

John 8:12 (NIV)
“I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." 

As Cindy told me her favorite Christmas story, I knew I was listening to a story about a family and church of “Day People.”  Ten-year-old Cindy and her younger sisters were concerned about Christmas.  The girls expected it to be the worst Christmas ever.  Their daddy had been sick and unemployed for over a year.  “Our parents warned us that they didn’t have any money.  We didn’t expect gifts that year.  The worst part was that we couldn’t give gifts to our grandma, and cousins.  I could not imagine Christmas without being able to give gifts.”

“We couldn’t afford a Christmas tree.  Daddy took us to the woods and we chopped down a small and unimpressive pine tree.  It was so much fun.  We were bursting with excitement as we brought it home and decorated it.  Suddenly, our living room looked like Christmas.  To this day, I believe this was the most beautiful tree our family has ever had.” 

Cindy continued her story.  “Our church found out we didn’t have any money.  Individual church members adopted each girl and the gifts started pouring in.  We had more gifts than ever before.  Then, God worked an even bigger miracle.  He sent us gifts for the rest of the family.  We were worried that we had nothing to give our cousins, who were all boys.  Amazingly, some of the gifts we received worked for little boys.  We wrapped them up and gave them away.” 

“We all worried about Grandma,” Cindy continued.  “We had gifts for everyone but her.  I felt terrible.  Then, Daddy heard a noise in the barn and went to investigate.  Hiding in the barn was a possum.  Grandma loved to eat possum.  Daddy trapped that possum and gave it live to Grandma the next morning.  She was thrilled.  She said it was the best Christmas gift she ever received.”  After Christmas, the entire family enjoyed a possum dinner.  Like the ram God provided to Abraham so many years ago, God provided a possum for Grandma. 

Those In The Middle
Many cannot make up their mind as to which category they are in.  They want to be in the light but they refuse to heed the warnings of the darkness.  They believe they can live in both worlds.  Read Jesus’ words in Luke 16:13.

Luke 16:13 (NIV)
No servant can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.

No one wakes up one day and decides to be become a “Night Person.”  It happens gradually, one compromise at a time.  It may start with a Saturday night party and too much to drink.  On Sunday, the head hurts and going to church seems impossible.  It may start with being too busy and working into the night.  Exhaustion becomes an excuse for skipping devotions and worship services. 

John grew up in church.  He became a Christian at an early age.  His values and ethics were strong.  He was leader in his church and school.  Then, John went off to college.  The first thing that happened was that he stopped going to church.  He did not know anyone and it was easier to sleep on Sunday.  He rationalized that he would go to church when he was at home. 

John’s friends were artists and musicians who had creative philosophies about life.  They offered these philosophies, listening to music, until way into the night.  They began influencing John’s thoughts.  Doubts crept in.  John fought his doubts but did not discuss them with anyone who would tell him the truth. 

Gradually, John began to make moral compromises.  He rationalized that everyone occasionally overindulged in food or alcohol.  The people around him took light drugs and he occasionally experimented.  He abandoned his vow of celibacy before marriage.  Needing to rationalize his new behavior, he began considering himself “enlightened.”  John no longer believes in Christianity.  He thinks it is too limiting.  He has lost his faith. 

Gradually, the night is taking away John’s days.  He parties until late into the night.  He claims to have lost interest in material things.  That translates into his having trouble earning money and his family feeling obligated to help.  John is living in that space between the night and the day.  Rapidly, he is moving towards the night. 

No one can stay still.  We are either walking into brighter light or headed towards the darkness.  Jesus is the truth and light.  He tells Christians to radiate his light.  Jesus tells us to go to his church because he knows we need to surround ourselves with people of the Light.  Walk toward the light this Christmas. 

Application (5-10 Minutes)

1)    Making It Personal
a)    How are your “eyes” during this Christmas season?  Are they full of light?  Do you see God’s blessings everywhere?  Write a praise letter to God in your journal.
b)    Are they full of darkness?  Are you only seeing what is wrong with the world and your life?  In your journal, write a letter of confession to God and ask for his help. 
c)    Are you:
i)    A day person?
ii)    A night person?
iii)    Somewhere in between?
d)    Are you lighting the world for others this Christmas?  How?  How can your lamp burn brighter?  (Write your answers in your journal.)

2)    Praying Continuously  (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
a)    Notice the Christmas lights. 
b)    Each time you see a Christmas light, praise God for being your Light.
c)    Ask to be able to see the world through his eyes.

3)    Ending The Day
a)    Did you walk towards the light today?  Praise God for his light.
b)    Did you walk towards the darkness today?  Confess and ask for forgiveness.

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