People are laughing and hugging as they reunite.
Talking about the year past.
Unwrapping their anticipated gifts.
Listening to a story repeated for the one-millionth time.
Eating dried out turkey.
Drinking egg nog or sparkling apple cider.
Singing it's a Holly Jolly Christmas...
while, inside, feeling anything but jolly.
Sure, they may be singing "Joy to the World," but their true emotions are joyless.
They may give you the highlight reel of the year past, but they leave out the drama.
They may be busy with buying, cooking and wrapping, while having a world of marriage, finances or health crashing down.
They may be proclaiming "Happy Holidays," only to be deeply grieving those they love.
"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us." Mt. 1:23
God with us in the thick of pain.
God with us in the thin of finances.
God with us when we feel happy - or sad.
God with us despite how much others are.
Will our hurting family members get a chance to know "God with us"? How he draws near to the down, dejected and devastated?
Or will they believe that facades of merry and bright are the only outfits allowed?
For others to know "God with us," they have to see "God in us."
They have to see how "God in us" has worked life - through us.
This means taking a risk. It means we have to move our usual conversations past ugly Christmas sweater styles, present ratings and the words "Pass the gravy."
Are you willing to step outside of comfortable to bow down, worship and treasure the small baby - in both word and in action - this Christmas?
Will you make known the cries that moved from a manger to a cross to change everything?
On coming to the house, they (the 3 wise men) saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. Mt. 2:11
Lighting up Christmas, is not about lighting up a tree. It is about lighting up our loved ones with the treasure we have in Jesus Christ. It is about lighting what truly matters.
I (Jesus) in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. Jo. 17:23
When we light Jesus, we light love. What shines is the one thing that matters most, the one thing that people need and the one thing ready to light the world.
So how do we shine Christ on Christmas?
1. We make his purpose higher than our cause of opening gifts.
2. We are more concerned with sharing Jesus than sharing mashed potatoes.
3. We go to vulnerable places, so hurt ones know it is okay to go there too.
4. We seek to touch a person's real need, not just their need to be entertained.
5. We seek the quiet of the Lord, so that we can enter into the mayhem of family - with peace.
6. We sit and listen, verses boast, toast and gloat over things in our own lives.
7. We look to serve and honor others above ourself.
8. We pray to discern who the Lord might direct us to.
9. We discuss the Christmas story.
10. We speak about the Savior who saves.
BONUS: We take a risk, even when the risk makes us think others won't like us.
And those around us will get a chance to know the God who goes with us - Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6).
And, the small beginnings of Jesus' new beginnings will shine. They will shine all-consuming love that touches our houses and hearts with true and long-lasting "merry and bright".