December 2014


When my daughter was a preschooler she was accustomed to having a nightlight burning in her room at night when she slept. There is a measure of comfort to know that the light is burning. Occasionally the bulb in the nightlight would burn out. For my daughter it was a frightening experience when this happened at night-time. If she awoke and the light was not there she called out to let me know that something was wrong. By replacing the bulb, fears are calmed and the whole household can return to sleep.

Jesus tells us that he himself is the light of the world. Without this light, we cannot see, we cannot find comfort. With the light of Christ we are comforted and we can enjoy life calmly. The light was first introduced into the world at the first Christmas. Today, Christ-followers carry the light of Jesus in their spirits. While the light will not burn out (like a nightlight’s bulb), we must let it shine out through the things that we do, and the way that we live.

This is the message of Christmas—Let your light shine!

One of my favorite quips is to tell people I have no first name—I am named for my uncle (Robert Benjamin Weaver), and my grandmother (Ruby Allen Holloway Weaver). So, I have two second names, but no first. I share this distinction with my second daughter who bears the middle names of both my sister and my wife’s sister. When Little Bit was born, we wanted to honor our sisters, but we also wanted to give her a name that could influence her demeanor. And so, like her aunt, her middle name is Joy.

It is a fitting name because of the joy she brought into our home on the day of her birth. It is further fitting because of the exuberant way that she lives life. Her gusto for living every moment to the fullest reminds me of the other reason that we named her “Joy.” And that reason is to remind us of the joy that can be found only in Christ—and it is one of the greatest gifts of Christmas. We are reminded again at Christmas and can echo the words of Barney Warren’s old gospel song:

I have found the joy no tongue can tell,

How its waves of glory roll!

It is like a great o’erflowing well

Springing up within my soul.

      It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,

      Full of glory, full of glory.

      It is joy unspeakable and full of glory;

      Oh the half has never yet been told!

(verse 4, taken from The Celebration Hymnal, 1997, #740)

What lasts? According to some companies, the warranty (“As long as you own your car!”). According to television commercials several things last: Energizer® batteries (“they keep going and going and going). I personally believe that it’s just the Bunny that keeps on going because I have had to replace their batteries any number of times.

Years ago we were entertained by a cartoonish commercial that asked, “How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll® center of a Tootsie Pop®?” Which everyone assured the boy asking, “I don’t know, I always bite.” But the owl decided to give the question a scientific test: “One, two, three . . . Three.” “The world may never know.”

So what is long-lasting? Sermons? Opera? Wal-Mart check-out lines?

I think the best answer is the never-ending love of Christ that we celebrate at Christmas. It is a love that lasts in spite of wars, a love that endures despite heartache, and a love that will accompany the believer into eternity (and abide with him there). This is Christmas: Love that never ends.

In the New Testament we find the story of Jesus and His disciples (the Twelve) caught up in a storm in the middle of the sea (see Mark 4). Jesus, weary from a day of ministry, has fallen to sleep in the back of the boat. The disciples, on the other hand are in search of the one thing that a storm in the middle of the Sea of Galilee will rob them of—calm. When they are finally able to wake Him, with fear in their eyes, hearts, and voices, they convince Jesus of their dire need. With a simple command – “Be still!” – Jesus brings peace upon the whole setting.

Jesus’ words, “Peace! Be still!” were not directed only at the raging waves (that became completely calm at the command), but also to His followers. “Be still!” He says. “Be quiet, I am with you,” He reminds us. This is His special gift to those who believe and follow—Peace. Hear one more promise from the King who came as an infant to be a gift to the world: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)

The Christmas season is now properly upon us. The Sunday following Thanksgiving (four weeks before the celebration of Christmas) marks the first day of Advent—the celebration of Christ’s coming. Each week focuses on a different theme, and this year we will consider Hope during this first week of Advent.

Hope is an intriguing thing because of what people are willing to place their hope for a future in. Speaking in specifically spiritual terms, people have been know to place their hope in good works, alms-giving, heritage, church membership and/or attendance. But the hymn writer understood the nature of hope when he wrote:

 

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

(“The Solid Rock” words by Edward Mote)

 

What we discover along the way in our search for hope is that the only true and lasting hope can be found in Christ.