“[They Magi] went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” – Matthew 2
So far this December I’ve written about Christmas bling, about Rockettes dancing at the Nativity, about keeping things subdued, about low-key representations of the Holy gift, about epic productions such as “Walk Through Bethlehem,” about razzmatazz, about unfettered celebration, about “going over the top for Jesus,” and about the more simple gifts of quiet devotion.
Evidently, reading me can seem contradictory at times; I get that. But I think it’s more accurate to say that my sense of “what’s right” (when it comes to the way we respond to God’s amazing gift) is all over the place because there are so many ways it’s appropriate to receive Jesus. They’re all right, if they’re authentic. What counts is the heart we bring to the stable.
What counts is the heart we bring to the stable…
If there’s one consistent Advent theme for me, though, I believe it has to be light. I’m fascinated by the way light quite literally changes things. Color, for example, simply does not exist absent light. Then – and this may be one of the reasons Rebekah and I enjoy mercury glass so much – there’s the way that light is reflected, redirected, and even multiplied in and through the way that we respond.
In today’s photographs, for example, the lights on the tree are not the source for the majority of the illumination. Most of the light is coming in from the window; then it is absorbed, reflected, redirected, multiplied, and refracted by the stuff we’ve hung on the tree.
I’d like to think of us, as followers of Jesus, being the kind of people who open ourselves up to God’s light, and then work overtime to see that we do everything we can to amplify the luminosity – so that in all that we do, we not only honor the light source, but we become participants in bringing light to the people and the situations God is counting on us to reach.
Many churches seem to exist as fortresses, where people huddle together for protection from the darkness. But we’re not called to be Fort God, we’re called to be lighthouses – not just shining for Jesus, but going out into the darkness and introducing light where the shadows have taken hold.
This is why I’m so glad that our church has an outward focus. We’re not a club, we’re a mission outpost. Salvation isn’t from something, it’s for something. We’re invited to participate in the work that God is up to – that’s what salvation means.
So Jesus – the light of the world – has come for our salvation, yes; but what we need to be doing is thinking a lot more about exactly what salvation means – for us, and for the places the light has yet to reach.
In love, and because of love – DEREK
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.