By Bob Docter, Editor-in-Chief – 

The lights go “on” as darkness invades the day.

They share space as they overlap each other and confront the dark. They warm human hearts. They shift valences from negative to positive as moods turn. The darkness brings stress and torment while the light presents peace and calm.

Brilliant Christmas lights draw us to a pathway to the “Light of the World,” an infant destined to light a saving pathway for us, the living, to find its source. Those who found the pathway first represented society’s lowest of the low, outcasts, whose only connection came through their flocks of sheep.

The unexpected events on a hillside outside Bethlehem frightened the shepherds as a dazzling, radiant light illuminated the scene. Gabriel, an angel of the Lord, stepped forward to explain it all. “Do not be afraid,” he said, as recorded in Luke 2:10a (NIV).

Oh, the power of those first words within today’s fearful, frightened fractured world, inhabited by anxious “shepherds” struggling to get through their night, worried about what sunrise might bring them. The quiet beauty of dawn slowly merges and their daily world fills slowly, irrevocably, with the intricacies of the day.

God’s brief message said it all. “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10b-11).

He told them how to find the child, and they went to see for themselves. They discovered it was true and spread the word throughout that environment. It amazed everyone who heard it.

Does it still amaze you? Some see it as a story for children. The possibilities of truth or fiction balance each other. Those trying to keep the plates in the air to complete life’s balancing act seem faithless. Therefore, we of faith must choose on the basis of what we believe. Others seek evidence in today’s world. There’s much of it if we bring our beliefs to the picture. Without beliefs, however, some choose fiction while others choose faith supported by fact. The product of the choice reveals itself in the quality of the light allowed to penetrate the mind and body of today’s shepherds.

In the dark some of them say: “Bethlehem! That’s a long hike. Besides, somebody has to stay with the sheep. I’ll let you go.” Another says: “Where’d that guy come from? I didn’t hear what he had to say,” and another echoes: “I don’t know…why should we go all that way just to see a baby? I’ve had a rough night. I’m staying home.”

Some prefer the darkness with sleeping sheep while others seek the light.

Sometimes darkness imposes itself on us. We become used to it and used by it. With eyes wide open we stumble around, blindly staggering, seeking some small, safe place to sprawl.

As German planes nightly tried to bomb the morale out of English people, Churchill ordered a  blackout that allowed no exposure of visible light. Governments used the same tactic in other parts of the world.

Even though bombs blighted significant areas of Britain, the Third Reich failed because the British people had their own light within them. Music and song lyrics by dedicated people interested in helping others turned it on.

One of them, Vera Lynn, earned the name “The Forces Sweetheart.” She sang and recorded many songs designed to help people’s morale through the blitz. She sang about “bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover,” and “when the lights go on again all over the world,” and “there’ll always be an England.” She released two blitz albums during this time.

The music echoed through bomb shelters, homes, churches, throughout the land. British morale remained unvanquished.

Seventy-five years earlier a man named William Booth wanted to turn the lights on “In Darkest England” by showing “the way out.” He preached the same message Gabriel gave to the shepherds that dark night in Israel–find Jesus, love people, save them spiritually and socially. He changed lives, confronted government, and expanded his Salvation Army around the world.

Let the lights of Christmas warm our hearts throughout 2015.

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