The Light of Joy

One of the things about the Christmas season that I get very excited about is lights. I love the look of houses outlined in tiny specks of shimmering light, whether they are white, green, red or blue, I love them all. I enjoy driving home from somewhere and seeing how many houses are embellished with twinkling splendor. Now don’t judge me, but I also enjoy seeing Christmas trees inside people’s homes. It’s not that I am being nosy. After all, don’t we put our trees in windows for that purpose, so the outside world can see our beautiful displays of light?

Pixabay

Pixabay

What is it about light that we so enjoy? I know that most of us would rather be out and about when it is day time. We enjoy when morning comes and feel loss at the slipping away of light as night time takes over. I personally have to convince myself that darkness is good and God allows the darkness so that we may rest. What I find fascinating about this God of ours is that He didn’t leave us in total darkness. He provided, even before sin became a reality, He provided the moon and the stars to rule the night, so even in darkness the light is still meant to preside.

Pixabay

Pixabay

There is a lesson here for us, if we are willing to see it. Light is always present even in the darkness. Darkness is, for lack of a better definition, the absence of light. But even in the deepest and darkest dark, somewhere there is still light. If we lost all electricity, the sun would still rule the sky by day and the moon and stars by night. As long as God allows the planets, stars, moons and sun to hang in space, there will always be light. What if those things disappear, or burn out? What if there is nothing left, but darkness? That will never be the case, because God is light and in Him there is no darkness.

Pixabay

Pixabay

When we think of Christmas we often have images of children playing, laughing and looking with awe and wonder at the lights and decorations. Can you even imagine a Christmas without the idea of child like joy being a part of it? I realize, not everyone grew up with wonder filled Christmases like many of us did. Some of you may not even celebrate Christmas or may think of it as merely an overly commercialized holiday meant to line the pockets of corporate America. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I think most of us can relate to the idea of joy.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Joy is often misunderstood. It is regularly mistaken for happiness, but joy is eternal, whereas happiness is temporary. Let me see if I can explain this in a way that makes sense. Joy is light. Joy comes out in dazzling displays like fireworks and rocket launches, but it also twinkles like Christmas lights and candle flames. The difference is that when the fireworks and rockets are burned out and the Christmas lights break and the flame smokes, joy still shines. The reason for this came in the form of a bundled baby boy, born in a stable over two thousand years ago.

Pixabay

Pixabay

No matter how deep the darkness is, joy still shines. There is no darkness or evil thorough enough to overcome joy. You might not feel like you have joy right now. Maybe you feel like you have never had joy, but you know those moments that bring tears to your eyes; those moments are shimmers of joy. You experience them when a movie has a happy ending or a musical movement runs together into a river of sound so beautiful it sweeps you along with it. You experience it when you come upon a breathtaking view or stand at the water’s edge when the sun begins its descent into a cloudless sea. This is joy.

Pixabay - nativity

Then when life tries to break you and you cannot hear the music or see the sunset, that is when you must reach back and in, deeper and deeper, to the event where joy first burst onto the scene of humanity. A virgin birth. Shepherds watching their flocks. Animals in the stable. A straw filled manger. This event was and is and evermore shall be the birth of joy. At that moment joy moved from happiness to an eternal possibility. Joy became the essence of bliss.

If you believe in that light, then even when all is dark, all you have to do is call his name. Jesus. And that light of joy will explode, once again in your soul and the darkness will scatter.

Beauty from Ash

There it was. A single, dark green leaf, beginning to unfurl. It had been conceived in darkness. A tiny seed that lay dormant, not dead, merely asleep in the cozy warmth of the dark earth. While it was sleeping the dragon had done his damage. He had ravaged the landscape, burning every tree and every living thing until all was nothing but ash. He thought he had destroyed life, but what he had meant for death, the One had meant for life. 

The ash lay heavy on the earth. It became, not a grave blanket of death, but a rich, comforting layer of warmth and nutrients. Gradually, over time, the rains came and the ash cooled and lingering life seeped into the black earth below. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

The seed drank the death life and began to swell. Swollen and full, it opened, releasing a shoot into the fertile soil above. Pushing, struggling, reaching, it climbed upward. It knew, above the darkness there was light and the light was what it wanted. The light was what it needed. The shoot didn't know how it knew, but it knew it had to reach for the light. It knew the light would help it grow. It knew the light would give it life.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Soon the pushing, struggling and reaching paid off. At the very tip of it's furthest point the shoot felt an odd sensation, warmth. It had only ever known the coolness of the earth in which it lay. It had only ever known the darkness, but now...now it reached. With one last ambitious push it poked through the earth and ash and found the light.  

*          *          *          *           *

Are we not like the seed? Were we not conceived in darkness? Did we not, when we were full with the nutrients of our mother's womb, the womb that would die after our life, death life, did we not move toward the light? We knew when it was time, as our mother's womb knew when it was time to help us, push, and reach and struggle, that we must find the light. We needed the light. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Why then, when we know the light is good, do we stop seeking it? Why, when we know the light gives us life and helps us grow, do we we hide from it? Why do we prefer to cover ourselves back up with the dragon's ash, trying to hide rather than growing to the potential that the One had meant for us? 

It is because we are afraid. 

Do not fear the light, or the One from which the light has its source. Rather, push, struggle, reach for Him. He will tend you like a tender shoot and raise you up into a mighty tree.

He alone can bring beauty from ash. 

(Written by Amy D. Christensen)

 

Come into the Light!

Next month the live action version of Beauty and the Beast will be coming out in theaters. When my daughters were old enough, the original animated version, which came out in 1991,  became one of my favorite movies to watch with them. What could be more intriguing for a writer like me, than a heroine who liked books. It also helped that she was brave, selfless and caring, all qualities I wished I were (and still do). If you are not familiar with the story, it is a tale of love and sacrifice.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Belle is a young woman, living in a small French town. She aspires for more than "this provincial life." Her father is a small time inventor and on one of his trips to sell a new contraption, he becomes lost in the dark woods. When he is chased by wolves and it begins to rain, he finds his way to a hidden castle and goes inside. 

When her father does not come home for a few days, Belle becomes worried and goes to look for him. She happens upon the castle with the help of Philippe the horse and bravely enters to search for her father. She finds him in a dungeon cold and shivering. She wants to free him, but is unable to open the door to his cell. 

The Beast, who has heard of a new intruder in his castle, confronts Belle. She pleads for her father's life. The Beast is not interested in letting his prisoner go, at least not until Belle says that she will take her father's place.

The Beast asks with amazement, "You would take his place?"

"If I did, would you let him go?"

"Yes! But you must promise to stay here forever."

"Come into the light."

Obviously, what Belle saw was not promising to her future. She had no idea when the Beast yanked her father out of that cell if he was going to cook her up for dinner or have her stuffed and put on display in one of the many cavernous castle halls. What follows is a beautiful love story that transcends skin color and massive differences. 

The point I want to expand, is the idea of coming into the light. Wasn't it the light that enabled Belle to see the Beast as he truly was? Over time, however, we realize the light didn't just give her the ability to see his physical form, the light eventually revealed his true nature. He was a young prince who had been turned into a beast due to his selfishness and pride.  As the two became friends, they were able to see past the ugly differences that kept them apart. 

He reveals mysteries from the darkness And brings the deep darkness into light.
— Job 12:22 (NASB)

God is light. If we are to understand life and how to live it, we need to step into the light. We need to be pursuing God and who He is, so that we might understand what the darkness is not. Darkness is not warm, inviting or satisfying. Darkness is not pleasurable or life giving. Yes, God created the darkness for rest, but it seems those who love the darkness are doing anything, but resting.

The Beast was living in darkness. When Belle arrived he made a choice to step into the light. This choice led him down a path of love and eventually redemption. We are faced with the same choice. Are we going to step into the light or are we going to remain in the darkness? Remaining in darkness is a choice that will result in confusion, fumbling and eventually death. 

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?
— Psalm 27:1 (NASB)

God's word, the Bible, tells us, the Lord is our light and our salvation. It doesn't say that our own knowledge is our light, or that man's wisdom is the light. Jesus Himself also declared He is the light. 

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”
— John 8:12 (NASB)

The key here is that we have to follow Him and pursue Him. Let's face it, life can be overwhelming. In the last five days two dear women I know lost their husbands to heart failure. Both of these women walk in the light. They know to whom to turn during this terrible time of loss and grief. It is the light, His light that will give them the strength to go on when life is so dark.

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.
— Psalm 9:10 (NASB)

Where are you at today? Are you struggling in the darkness? Do you feel that you have been thrown into the dungeon of some beast with fangs? Step into His light. He will guide you out. He will bring life and love out of the darkness.

The song below was written as a Christmas song, but it is worth the listen at any time. Come into the light!