“Turn on the Lights

Reflections on experiencing Jesus this Christmas

Imagine you are awakened from a sound sleep on a blustery December evening by the sound of a knock at your door. Startled, you sit up in bed as wind is whipping outside your window. Who could possibly be at your door in the middle of the night!? In the darkness you reach for your robe, and stumble into your slippers. Before making your way to the door you turn on the lights. 

Light. It fills the room, bringing a sense of safety, an awareness of your surroundings, and perhaps a welcome to the guest on the other side of your door.

With a bit of hesitation, you open your door just enough to see who is visiting so unexpectantly. The cold of the night smacks your face and sends a shiver down your back! You squint and then rub your eyes as you stare at the person patiently waiting outside your home. “Jesus?” you mutter in disbelief. “Is that really you? Oh my...” you take a step back as you open the door. “Please come in…what are you doing here, in the middle of the night, at my home?”

In a calm and loving tone Jesus replies, “My friend, I’ve come for Christmas.”

Jesus doesn’t always come as we expect, but he does promise to come. His arrival at the door of our lives and hearts has always been his mission. Christmas is a reminder that God is willing and able to do the impossible to be with us. This Christmas, will you turn on the lights within yourself and invite him to come inside the details of your season?

Four Christmas Reflections

Hundreds of years before the first Christmas, the prophet Isaiah foreshadowed the coming of Jesus in the form of a baby (Isaiah 7:14). At the time of this prophesy God lovingly gave four practical commands (Isaiah 7:4) on how to handle life as one waits for the hope of divine intervention. Let’s reflect on these words from God as we prepare our hearts for Christmas.

God said, “Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart…” Isaiah 7:4

The following four reflections are opportunities for you to prepare your heart for Jesus’ arrival in your life this Christmas. Jesus arrives at our door again and again, desiring to be a part of every part of life we experience.

Take 10 minutes for each reflection. Reflections can be done separately over a few days or consecutively.

  • Reflection  no.1

    “Be careful.” Say that out loud. God wants you to be careful, but not necessarily in the way we might think. God isn’t like the parent who doesn’t allow their child to do anything that may result in a scraped knee. On the contrary God desires to live a thrilling life with us. But he knows our tendencies to grasp for control as we face stressful or threatening situations. We form alliances with people or things that appear to give us a sense of security. But God stands at the door and says to our anxious hearts, “Be careful.” Be careful whom and what you put your trust in, especially when it is at the expense of trusting God. What do you feel stressed about this season? In what ways have you put effort into controlling that situation? In whom or in what have you put your trust regarding that situation? Talk to God about it. Then take a few moments to be silent. Listen to God’s word to ‘be careful’ in regard to where you place your trust. This Christmas God invites us to experience trust more than tradition.

    Wingspan Challenge: Think about the people in your life that you set rules for or advise to be careful about their safety and well-being. It’s natural to think about physical safety but have you considered care for how they develop trust? Think of one way you can encourage them to be careful in whom or in what they trust? This may require setting boundaries for them or coaching them towards healthy trust. Do you need to build more trust with them? How can you influence them to put their trust in God?

  • Reflection  no.2

    “Keep calm” This command from God could fit well in any situation, but it is particularly profound as we prepare for Christmas. Other ways to say this command are, ‘cultivate an inner confidence and peace’, or ‘still your emotions’. Could you use a dose of calm this season?! We desire to experience the thrill of hope from Christmas spirit, but instead find ourselves caught up in responding to stress and disappointment. ‘Keep calm’ is a call to proactively focus on Jesus’ love instead of reactively tailspin from the pressures around us. God has given you a unique light that he wants to illuminate, but we determine who and what has the permission to flip our light switch on and off.

    Sit quietly and review your day (or yesterday). Picture the events of your day as they unfolded. Take inventory of which of your choices and behaviors were reactive to other people or situations. Focus on one of the situations you reacted in a way you regret. As you think about it take note of your body language. Now take a breath and relax your hands. Ask Jesus to fill you with the light of his love in that situation. If it is helpful imagine Jesus next to you in that situation. Do you experience a change in how you feel or your perspective? This exercise is a way to invite Jesus into the day-to-day details of your life.

    Wingspan Challenge: One of the most powerful ways to influence others within our sphere of influence is to model how we respond to situations, particularly stressful ones. We can communicate expectations and hope to experience work and home environments that are peaceful, but the most effective way to cultivate this is to lead by example. Over the next few days take the opportunity to invite Jesus’ presence into your response to someone or something. Ask Jesus to still (not silence) your emotions. Ask him to fill you with his love and help you move forward with peace and confidence. This may require you responding more slowly than normal. That’s okay! Make the most of your opportunity.

  • Reflection no.3

    “Don’t be afraid.” God says this line so many times in the Bible. He knows our propensity to fear! So he reminds us again to not be afraid. He says to you this Christmas, “Don’t be afraid.” Fear can be a barrier to experiencing the presence of Jesus in your life. Jesus wants to eliminate that barrier so that you can experience him with you this Christmas. Don’t sit in the dark, paralyzed with fear. Turn on the light! There are scary realities we contend with around us. Choosing to not be afraid doesn’t mean we pretend they aren’t there, rather we believe that the light of Jesus’ love and his good plan for our life will win regardless of what we face. Fear gives us tunnel vision where we only see what could go wrong. Light broadens the horizon and allows us to see other possibilities and opportunities around us. What reality in your life induces fear? Maybe it is something coming up in the next few days or perhaps it is something you fear in the New Year. Either way, name it. You don’t need to be ashamed of your fear. Fear sustains our survival. But Jesus comes so that we can thrive, not just survive. So hear Jesus say to you, “Do not be afraid.” Fear is a thing of the past. Leave it in 2018 and move forward toward 2019 choosing a perspective of trust in Jesus.

    Wingspan Challenge: Sometimes our biggest hindrance from influencing others is our own fear. What if I am not enough? What if I mess up? What if I don’t have all the answers? Sound familiar? God wants you to be a person of influence because he has created us to make a difference in each other’s lives. What fear keeps you from being more of a difference maker in someone’s life around you? Purpose to address that fear and work toward overcoming it this year. It may be your process of overcoming that fear that is the exact thing the person in your wingspan needs to learn from. God doesn’t use our perfection to influence others; he uses our process of growth to influence others.

  • Reflection  no.4

    “Do not lose heart.” It isn’t stress, anxiety, confusion, grief, or depression that causes us to despair, give up, or lose heart. It is our lack of connection with God and others as we experience these things that lead us to defeat. If we are to experience the miracle of Christmas this season—Immanuel: God with us—then we must accept the truth that Jesus desires to be present in our greatest weakness and struggles. Recall the story of the person who was awakened by the knock on their door and found Jesus waiting outside. That person is you! Is your response to close the door and say to Jesus, “Come back in the morning when I have everything looking good and expect your arrival”? Or are you willing to say, “Come in Jesus, sit and talk with me just as I am. Here is what I am experiencing. Experience it with me”? This is not an easy invitation, but it is a transformative one. When we can turn on the light and welcome Jesus into our lives, he can take a mess and turn it into a masterpiece. Soon we will celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus in human flesh. We aren’t celebrating that Jesus was a cute, healthy baby boy. We are remembering that God can birth something new and seemingly impossible within us if only we allow him to enter our experience. Imagine sitting down at your kitchen table with Jesus on that cold December evening. You don’t need to say anything because he knows everything. Just listen. “Jesus, what do you have to say? I’m listening.”

    Wingspan Challenge: Listening fosters connection. We learn to listen by practicing it. Who in your sphere of influence can you practice listening to? Maybe you need to invite them out for coffee or perhaps you need to sit on the floor with them as they play. Carve out a few minutes to practice listening to someone in the next few days. Listening often seems like a good idea but then is hard to keep doing. We are distracted by a thought, an opinion, or maybe a rebuttal. Stay the course and keep listening. Ask questions that help the other person keep talking. Learn something about this person even if you don’t agree with it.

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:23 (NLT)

Immanuel, God with usHe came to mend broken and dysfunctional families, he came to give the only gift that would truly satisfy…and he came to not just redecorate, but to completely reconstruct the lives of his children.

-Ruth Chou Simons

We wish you a Merry Christmas!

We look forward to seeing you for Christmas Candlelight services

Sunday 12/23 @ 9:00am, 10:45am & 5:30pm

Monday 12/24 @ 4:00pm & 5:30pm

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