Tag Archives: Joy

“Ah, Winter! How Do I Love Thee?”

 

Ah, winter! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Reason #1: Christmas usually comes during winter, thus Reason #1 by itself would more than tip the scales.

Reason #2: Christmas singing (where “yours truly” gets to croon Christmas tunes) comes, yes, indeed, during Christmas which . . . well, refer to Reason #1.

Reason #3: My favorite days tend to be days during which I get to spend at least a little time reading, drinking coffee or tea, and/or just breathing in front of our fireplace. (The only thing better than a good book is a good book in front of a fire.) Those days almost never come during summer; consequently, score a win for winter!

Reason #4: Nothing in nature is more beautiful than snow. And when, pray tell, does snow tend to fall? Bingo. Winter. (And snow falling on a mountain in winter? Perfect!)

Reason #5: Snow falling from the sky (though no moisture at all is falling from the sky this winter) is far superior to dust, dirt, real estate, and small animals flying across the sky. When weather prognosticators in our area talk about “spring-like conditions,” it’s usually code for “wind, dirt, and drought.”

Reason #6: Grass does not have to be mowed during winter. My yard never looks better than under a blanket of snow, and though brown grass is not beautiful, neither is it needy. Being able to ignore it gives me three extra hours a week to do stuff I’d rather do, like read and enjoy the fire. Oh, I love a nice green yard for a few months, but “few” is not eleven, and eleven would be insufferable. Winter is mower parole.

Reason #7: Valentine’s Day comes during winter. It is not, honestly, that I’m all choked up about that pseudo-holiday, but, much to my surprise, Cupid’s season has become a big one for me singing-wise. I love singing for joyful reasons, “for sentimental reasons,” and for lots of other reasons, and winter’s when I get to do a bunch of it.

Reason #8: Though the Olympic Games actually take place every two years, my very favorite edition is the Winter Olympic Games, which occur in . . . Yes. There’s never a time when I don’t enjoy watching skiing, bobsledding, snowboarding, and all the other amazing stuff folks do on frozen water. Give me food, drink, a fire, and these ice-based Olympic games, and I’m happy as a clam at high tide, as a pig in sunshine, as a ski jumper nailing a perfect landing after a near-miss with a Boeing 777. Snow-deprived here this year, I’m lovin’ it even more.

Reason #9: Our family’s annual ski trip (we’re not talkin’ water skiing, here) comes in . . . ditto. These reasons are not in order, or this one would be way higher!

Reason #10: Clear, crisp winter air is the best air you’ll ever breathe, paired very nicely with clear, crisp, star-kindled winter skies.

Thank God indeed, our Creator is Lord of all seasons and his joy is woven into them all. I just think he does some of his very best work in winter.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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What Sets Christianity Apart? Grace!

Author Philip Yancey writes that at a British conference, scholars from around the world were discussing the most basic beliefs that set Christianity apart from other world religions.

As they debated some important possibilities, C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. “What’s the rumpus about?” he asked, and he was told that they were asking what Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions might be. He answered, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”

Yancey continues, “After some discussion, the conferees had to agree. The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, and Muslim code of law—each of these offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.”

We could never be saved by our own effort or by keeping any law, as St. Paul makes clear.

“We all [sinned], all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ” (Ephesians 2:3-5, The Message).

It sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it? Yes, and that’s a good sign! Real grace always sounds that way as it amazes those who receive it. Read the Gospels! You’ll find a lot of smiling, amazed people there. (Watch out for the Pharisees, though; they never smile. No surprise. Toxic religion never leaves its adherents anything to smile about.)

Real grace is always a little and maybe a lot scandalous. If no one thinks you’re too gracious, you’ve probably not felt and internalized enough of the grace of God yourself. If our churches aren’t regularly accused by some folks of being too gracious—too loose, too accepting, too free from law—that’s a very bad sign. It almost certainly means we don’t understand how much grace we’ve received and how rich is God’s supply. Read the Scriptures! The Good News, the real thing, the real Lord, has always scandalized people by the depth of his love and mercy.

If you’re God’s child, you don’t have to live a fearful, tentative life. Indeed, how dare you!? You don’t have to be careful lest you exhaust God’s amazing resources by being too loving, too gracious, too joyful, too free. God’s supply of love and grace, joy and freedom, is boundless!

You don’t have to live like the “one talent servant” in Christ’s parable (Matthew 25:14-30). Terrified that he might make some mistake and tick off his master (whom he misjudged completely), he made the worst mistake of all, not loving his master.

If we’re living lives cowering in fear, afraid to dance before our God because we might miss a step, we’re making the biggest mistake of all, not knowing and loving our Father as we should—the Father who continually amazes his children by the depth of his love and mercy, his grace and joy, and the genuine freedom that only he can give.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Good Hearts Have Room for Lots of Good Songs

 

I keep thinking that the folks up, way up, at the Red River Community House (Red River, New Mexico, elevation 8,650 feet) will one day wise up and get tired of us, but they haven’t yet. So this Sunday morning my wife and I were at RRCH on yet another of a nice string of Labor Day/Red River weekends.

I helped lead worship at the Community House this morning, and I’ll be singing a concert there this evening featuring some of the great old “American Songbook” songs,” the ones lots of us have in our memories resonating with the velvet tones of Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, and on we could go. And on we do go as those sweet tunes live on.

I’m not sure how sweet my tones will be, but not much is better than getting to croon a tune when your lungs are filled with crisp mountain air, your heart is uplifted by the smiles of friends and warm music, and everyone there is being enfolded into the loving embrace of the sturdy log timbers of a building that’s been a community treasure since it opened in 1940.

Count on it, the open rafters at the Community House have heard these tunes many times before. Come to think of it, at least two of the songs I’ll sing tonight were top hits at some point during the 40s, and most were still favorites.

“For Sentimental Reasons” is a great song—even better, I think, when paired with Nat King Cole, who is pretty much always my favorite. (Tonight I’ll definitely be singing one of his signature songs, “Unforgettable,” though Irving Gordon didn’t write it until 1951. Had Gordon gone with his “working title,” which was both bad English and a bad title, I doubt we’d be singing, “Uncomparable.” But as it is, wow!).

“I’ll Be Seeing You” is another of the 40s tunes. It’s a romantic melody for sure, but it became a love song not just for lovers but for parents and families and siblings and anyone sending a loved one off to war and to an unknown future in terribly difficult and uncertain times. The quintessential song of World War II, this love song was almost a whispered prayer, too, and often accompanied by tears.

I was singing some of these sweet songs at a retirement home several years ago when a dear lady approached me to say, “I remember going to New York City to be reunited with my husband who’d been sent back to the States on a hospital ship. Together again, we danced to those songs.”

It would be a compliment of the highest order if a dance broke out tonight (as has happened many times before at the Community House) and some members of that “greatest generation” were leading out. For so many years, they led us so well.

A bridal shower is being held at the Community House right now. A new life-song is evidently being written. In a couple of hours, we’ll be there sharing some old songs. I like that.

New lives and old lives. Old songs and new songs. My grandkids are bringing in some great new ones, and they also really like some of the songs PawPaw sings, too. Good hearts have room for lots of good songs, old and new.

That’s what “community” is about, right? Sharing what is precious.

Starting this day off at the Community House with Christians of all sorts praising the God of us all. Ending the day there with more sweet songs.

I call that precious indeed.

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 

 


“The Mountains Sing Together for Joy”

My wife and I were in Colorado recently. Living on the aptly named “high plains” of Texas, at a tad over 3,800 feet in our particular part of those plains, we’ve got a pretty good start on altitude already. But I discovered long ago that my soul requires regular doses of much higher altitude, the kind that comes only with mountains.

I love mountains in general, but I was ready for a good dose of some Colorado mountains. And, of course, if you want to go up Pikes Peak, and that is exactly what we wanted, and if that incredible peak has not wandered off or been misplaced, Colorado is your destination. If you also like trains, and I do, a Cog Railway ride up Pikes Peak wonderfully answers both needs: mountains and rails. A win-win situation.

The history of the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, “the highest railroad ever built in the USA,” and the description of the engineering involved is pretty incredible. On the way up the hill we learned that most “normal” trains bump into the laws of physics and are unable to handle grades of more than about 4%. I’m told that 3.3% at Raton, New Mexico, is the steepest grade in the U.S. for “normal” trains. Because of the Cog Railways “cog” system, a gear-like intermesh between track and locomotive, those trains can climb up grades as steep as 26%.

You’d have to work hard to find vistas and scenery more incredible than the mixture of green and granite, azure blue and gleaming snow, adorning those hills and peaks. What I particularly like are the switchbacks where a passenger turned photographer finds himself literally rounding the bend and gasping at the beauty of each new scene stretching to the horizon.

Oohs and aahs and wows echo through the train car, and you find your mind almost derailed as it was still trying to wrap itself around the magnificence of the last vista, but now you’ve chugged up and around and, voilà!, our Creator has painted another masterpiece before the paint was dry on the last one!

I found myself thinking of the folks who had made their way up that mountain long before the train was available. The trip, I’m told, was a two-day affair on a mule, if the weather and the mule cooperated and all went well. It was after Zalmon Simmons, “inventor and founder” of the famous mattress company, made the trip on a mule in the 1880s that “there has to be a better way” led to the beginning of the construction of the cog railway in 1889. For chronological snobs (like most of us), that’s a reminder that “modern” and “amazing feats of engineering” are not terms that have to be coupled on the same track.

Coming down Pikes Peak is at least as much a challenge for the trains as going up. Redundant brake systems and procedures are checked often, for which I was thankful.

Going up, coming down, rounding the next turn—we never know in life exactly what is coming. Amazing beauty. Deep joy. Searing pain. This challenge or that obstacle.

But we can rest assured that our Creator is good, all-powerful, and all-loving. In their Creator’s presence, the “mountains sing together for joy” (Psalm 98:8). They always have. They always will.

And our God forever sings with joy over his children.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


“Short Words Are Best” and Three Are Best of All

“Short words are best,” asserted Winston Churchill, “and the old words when short are best of all.”

So may I suggest three—very short and very old which when lined up and strung together are the best three that could possibly be.

GOD IS LOVE.

These words are chiseled into the rock, woven into the fabric, of the universe. More than that, if anything could be more, they are living and implanted by the Author of life into its every cell, resonating in every breath and heartbeat. How could we not feel the life of those three short words pulsing all around us? Ah, perhaps in part because they are so much around us that we live in them and swim in them like fish enlivened by but largely oblivious to the very thing that gives them life.

God is love.

Note that in this short, old, and every morning new, equational sentence, the verb, the multiplier, and the fulcrum is IS, to BE. Yes, eternally. And, yes, of course, the “great I AM” will always be and will always be exactly what He always is, love.

Those three words mean that as long as our Father wills the universe to be, the stars to twinkle, the worlds to spin—if packed in every grain of sand on every sea-washed beach was a million years and all of those mini-mega-grains were stretched across creation at attention in single sand-soldier file—the dance of the cosmos, the symphony of space, and the music of the spheres, will still play on because God is GOD, and God always IS, and God will always be LOVE.

The order of the short word-cars on this magnificent train matters immensely. “God is love” is a breathtaking stream flowing with the life of the Creator and wash-singing, joy-splashing, over every rock and crevasse of the universe. “Love is god” is an idolatrous sludge defiling its worshipers and leaving a black trail of death, desolation, and the tears of despairing children in its sad and slimy wake. The first sings with the life of the Creator; the latter stagnates and festers in the stench of death-ridden darkness.

And, yes, in a fallen, sin-sick, and sadly twisted world, darkness is real and too often seems utterly pervasive. But no eclipse is forever. The sun’s corona glows around the blackness, impatient to blaze again unfettered, and we have the promise of Eden’s Creator that one day unending joy will again be the watchword of the universe. The first Adam fell, and we see the wreckage and the pain, but Adam’s word is not the last.

Because of the three short words that find their fruition, culmination, and crowning glory in the one Word who “became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.”

Does it sometimes, even often, seem unbearably dark? One Word “shines in the darkness” and will banish it forever, all because of the three short words: God is love.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“A Time to Mow, a Time to Rake, a Time to Shovel, and a Time to Sow”

 

Well, here we go again.

I’m talking about firing up the lawn machines, mowing, trimming, fertilizing, weed-spraying, weed-eating, weed-picking, and the whole nine yards of yard and lawn care.

Actually, in my part of the country, we’ve been moving slowly back into mowing for at least a month. An April 29th snow which, I admit, I had hoped might slow the grass down a bit, didn’t much.

Friends in lower altitudes/swamps or other areas that spend most of the year garbed in green, or friends with yards the size of postage stamps, or, on the other hand, friends whose yards are the size of Rhode Island or a mid-sized Texas ranch, will have little sympathy for me.

If you can trim your yard in fifteen minutes, or if you’re sentenced by your geography to mow your massive estate twice a week in the summer, you’ll not likely shed many tears for a guy who grinches about having to mow once a week when the grass is really ginnin’.

I’m not looking for sympathy. I actually like seasons. And I like living in a place where we have four of them that are generally distinct. I admit that the more time the grass spends under snow, out of sight and out of my mind in the winter, the better I like it. I’d much rather ski over snow than mow over grass. But I’m fond of green, growing stuff (except dandelions and crab grass); I’m just happy that here grass—and weeds—take a few months off.

In my better moments, I even like mowing. A little. Sometimes. In my work, I get to visit with plenty of folks who’d absolutely love to be healthy enough to mow. That gives some perspective when I’m out cursing one hill in my yard that’s been trying to mow me under or break my ankles for thirty years.

I will also admit that chasing a mower over 10,000 square feet of grass seems a more productive exercise to me than chasing my tail in gerbil-like fashion down the belt of a treadmill. (I particularly despise lining up on those things with a bunch of other waddling gerbils.) I also like the fact that my cell phone is in the house when the mower and I are out in the yard. So mowing is not without some benefits.

My mother was a yard person. Well, actually, she was a gardening person. She was not averse at all to tackling lawn mowing chores, but she was more of a plant artist. I inherited her love of green things but not her ability. (I think my younger brother got more of her gardening gene.) Still, I try. I plant plants. About half live a normal plant lifespan.

Mom spent decades growing really pretty plants in the High Plains where ice in the winter, drought in the summer, and wind most of the year around all conspire to kill vegetation. But she was more than equal to the challenge. Then we moved to Houston and Mom got a canvas worthy of her ability. While she was there, it was beautiful. Ten minutes after she was gone, it reverted to swamp.

But in God’s economy no genuine beauty is ever wasted or irrevocably lost. I can hardly wait to see what God grows and lets us help tend in the new heavens and new earth where the season for joy is forever.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Unless You Become Like Little Children . . .”

“Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

So said the Lord Jesus to his disciples as he “called a little child to him.” No doubt, one of my favorite things about our Savior is that the children seemed to always flock to him. When his apostles tried to shoo the kids away, opining to their parents that the Lord was far too busy to mess with little folks, Jesus quickly disabused his disciples of that way-off-the-mark notion.

In fact, as he laid his hands on the children and blessed them, Jesus had those intriguing words for his followers: “Unless you become like little children . . .”

My back hurts, and I’m a little achy today. Not bad. Just a little. Some trampoline time, some rolling-around-on-the-floor time (thank the Lord our floors are carpet-covered and not bare!), some doing fun experiments sitting on the concrete (no carpet) in the garage time, some lift-them-up-and-hugging-them time, some crawling around in the living room sheet-constructed cave/castle time—all of these contribute to some soreness. But mostly, it all adds up to wonderful memories for grandparents and grandkids alike, a sweet recipe for one beautiful little word: joy.

Our deepest joys are usually best just experienced and accepted with deep gratitude to their Giver, but some reflection is also occasionally in order.

Why does time with the little folks so renew our souls even as it tests our backs? A million reasons, I’m sure, but . . .

Unconditional love. You learned about that holding your newborn children; you learn even more about it with their children. You for them and they for you. Just spending time together adds up to sheer delight. No strings. The upstretched arms of that little 18-month-old mouthing “PawPaw”? Worth more than gold! You can live for a month just on one smile, and a giggle will make it two.

Purity, simplicity, and trust. The littlest folks have no qualms about “asking” for what they need, be it bottle or “blanky” or diaper change or nap on your chest. What looks bad in adults and, may I say, completely pathetic in high-officed politicians—neediness and almost no impulse control—is not only okay in the littlest folks, it’s appropriate and shows their absolute trust in us. As God cares for us all, continually doing infinitely more for us than we can possibly know, we gladly provide for the little ones he’s put in our care.

Wonder and joy. Everything is new to them. Everything is beautiful. Everything is full of wonder. That grass beneath the trampoline is a magical forest filled with mythical creatures. Those Christmas lights are as beautiful as twinkling stars. And PawPaw is a noble and valiant unicorn (with wings) who doesn’t at all mind being christened Buttercup if the little folks are doing the naming.

Long after we’ve grown to adulthood, it’s one of God’s most beautiful surprises to use little folks to help us grow back into children and much more like the Son who so delights in them and us.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


“For Everything There Is a Season”

 

snow-dragon-01

Well, rats! My fire is out. I just looked up across the room and, no flame in the fireplace. A sad sight.

I confess, I laid the fire, lit the match, and quit paying attention. Instead of staring at the hearth, I was staring at a blank computer screen and wishing words would start appearing. Moments later, it seems, my fledgling fire fizzled.

A good fire in the fireplace is one of my favorite things. I like living in a place where we have real seasons, where fireplaces are not just decorative, and where I’m just a few hours away from the second most beautiful thing in nature: mountains. The first? Snow, of course. The fact that the two so often go together is nature tipping her hat in a dance of glorious gratitude to her Creator. (No, I don’t have cattle. If I did, my love of snow might be modified.)

Fact is, it’s been a wimpy winter. Sub-zero cold a few nights, yes, but otherwise puny. And don’t broadcast this, but as much as I love Sunday worship and as seriously as I believe that Christians who claim to be serious about Christ ought to try being serious about being in church . . . I always feel like any winter where we don’t get snowed out of Sunday morning church once during the season is a weak winter indeed.

I figure church-going folks like me who are tempted to be religiously hypocritical about their church attendance ought to get an opportunity on one Sunday a year to stay home and relax (in front of a fire) like non-church-going folks who are tempted to be religiously hypocritical about their nonattendance. No hypocrites (that’s all of us at times) are harmed in this once-a-year civilized exchange. And I could hardly be more thankful for our usual one Sunday a winter snow day. (If you think this shows I’m not religious enough to be a preacher, you’ll get no quarrel from me.) But the Lord who said, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath” is neither the sort of Pharisee nor the sort of kill-joy who will begrudge us a snowy sabbatical.

Alas, no snow. The snow dragon that my grandkids know is hibernating under our front yard won’t get to rear his head this year. But even on a better year, snow melts, trees and lights get packed away, and winter bids adieu as some other sweet seasons swing onto the stage.

I know I’m living on borrowed time this year fire-wise. Oh, we’ll still have a cold spell. Count on it. At least one. A late one that fritzes foolish fruit trees. An Easter sunrise service where the sun rises but the mercury in the thermometer forgets to is not that unusual. And I remember a mid-March road-closing due to snow blowing across the highway so thick you couldn’t see. Even in spring, winter will get in a parting shot.

But, no doubt, it won’t be long until my wife issues her annual edict and the decorative candles slide back in where once roaring flames lived and danced and delighted my soul.

God’s age-old wisdom is that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3). I figure that includes snow and green grass and birdies and falling leaves and . . .

Thank God for the beauty of them all!

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


What Does Christmas Really Mean?

 

16DCC-Church-Christmas 2014-08

“Christmas is saying ‘yes’ to something beyond all emotions and feelings,” writes Henri Nouwen. “Christmas is saying ‘yes’ to a hope based on God’s initiative, which has nothing to do with what I think or feel. Christmas is believing that the salvation of the world is God’s work and not mine.”

Christmas is choosing for a change to take a look through the right end of the telescope and thrilling to the sight of God’s work written large rather than cringing before a universe shrunken, shriveled, and constricted, bounded on all sides by the nearsighted view of mortals almost as blind and dull as me.

Christmas means that the real question is not, “What must I do to be saved?” Not such a bad question for a jailer back in Philippi scared stiff about losing his head because of almost losing his prisoners (Acts 16). But the far better question for me is, “What has God already done to save me?” Christmas means finding that answer all wrapped up in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.

Christmas means bringing the most precious of gifts to the Baby King not to enrich or impress him or add to the net worth of the One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and who gives me the gift of my every breath, but simply because I love him and want to joyfully place before him the best that I have.

Christmas means finding a fleeting moment of sanity when I’m less full of myself and more filled with Heaven as I focus not on me but on the God of all life and joy.

Christmas means that instead of trying to save humanity theoretically through my unceasingly serious efforts, I sit down with one or two giggling and very specific pint-size children or grandchildren and tell a story about how once upon a specific time in Bethlehem a star twinkled and angels sang, and then I hum them to sleep with “Silent Night.”

If I’ve got Christmas right and know the real story, then Christmas also means I’m free to laugh with the little ones and tell them old new stories about how Scrooges get over taking themselves too seriously and what happens on “The Night Before Christmas.”

Christmas, for me, is realizing that the wonderful writer G. K. Chesterton discovered something as important as the law of gravity when he wrote, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” It was through pride, he wrote, that Satan fell, and “the very skies were cracked across like a mirror, because there was a sneer in Heaven.” Christmas means that sugar plums always win over sneers, that the deadly self-serious always crash and burn, and that angels aren’t the only ones lifted into flight by Joy.

Christmas means that though you may get a tiresome tax form in January, all you have to do is look up on a Yuletide night to see that Bethlehem always beats Caesar and that the twinkling tinsel of Heaven’s stars all point forever to the One brightest, the One eternal.

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“The True Light . . . Was Coming Into the World”

 

christmas-cross

“The true light that gives light to everyone,” writes the Apostle John, “was coming into the world” (John 1:9).

And so each year at this time, we drape our trees, our homes, our churches, our cities and towns and villages, with innumerable lights. Every one of them, even if it’s nothing more than a glowing red light on Rudolph’s nose, is silent testimony to the bright truth that “the light shines” even “in the darkness.” Not only has the darkness “failed to put it out” (The Message), it’s precisely when darkness deepens that the light seems to blaze every more brightly.

Ah, it must be maddening indeed for the prince of darkness and his joyless slaves to see their night-shrouded malevolence so quickly burned into oblivion by even a little light from the Son. One word of truth and dictators tremble. One word of hope and fears melt away. One word of joy and sowers of dissension are struck mute. Even the slightest current of light’s warmth spells approaching and certain defeat for a cold ocean of darkness. The light always triumphs.

Whether we live largely oblivious to that truth, or whether we embrace it with all of our hearts, every light we hang burns in silent tribute to the reality that the light that night seeping into the darkness surrounding a Bethlehem stable is the light of the victory of the Father of Lights.

That little trickle of light would become a wave of luminescence, and that wave would surge inexorably into a tsunami of brightest joy. Even the worst that Satan could do with a cross would three days later be brilliantly overcome by the light of life blazing forth from a vacated tomb.

So we hang the lights at Christmas. Call them Christmas lights. Call them holiday lights. Call them whatever you wish; all of them are His.

Maybe it’s just me (I bet it’s you, too!), but I can’t walk into the quiet church sanctuary, the living room at home, or even  out onto the porch in the chill of night—any  place where Christmas lights and electricity are available—and not plug them in so as to bask in the glow. Were I embarrassed (and I’m not) about being childish, I might say we’ve hung all these lights mostly for the grandkids—and I do indeed love seeing the light reflected in those beautiful eyes—but I’d hang the lights and trim the tree if I was the only kid in the room.

One might say that it’s all basically illusory, artificial and pretty pathetic, just light we ourselves engineer and string and plug in to lift our own spirits and make ourselves feel better as we and all of humanity muddle through life mostly in the dark. Many say that whatever small glimmers of light we get here will be what we strain to create.

All I have to do is glance at our Christmas tree and see the little cross hanging in its branches, completely surrounded by light, and I know better. I plug in these little lights not in a pathetic attempt to defeat this world’s night but as a proclamation that darkness has already been mortally pierced and that even the smallest glimmers and twinkles of joy proceed from the brilliance of His grace, His truth, His Son.

All light is His.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! And for a Merry Christmas, any three-CDs for $35 (plus shipping), just use the contact form there to let me know you’d like to order (or message me on Facebook). Merry Christmas!

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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