“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
–Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

What special memories does Christmas have for you? As a child, I loved Christmastime. I still remember shopping for Mom and Dad’s presents in fancy department stores in downtown L.A. None of us could really afford the presents, but the shopping was done with money that my parents gave me, and I still enjoyed the experience.

I remember the build-up towards Christmas. We would get all bundled up and go for long drives down Christmas Tree Lane, where we would look at all the lights. (I am totally blind now, but I could still se a faint glow of light back then.) While my family tried to describe the colors to me, I found it rather boring in comparison to Christmas presents.

I couldn’t wait for Christmas Eve to come, because I knew that at bedtime, we would put out milk and cookies for Santa Claus. While we were told that we could have fun in this way, we were also reminded that Santa was just pretend. But my sisters and I didn’t let that fact deter us. We would hang our stockings and wait impatiently for morning to come.

Of course, I still remember the joys of Christmas morning, and how we would rush to our stockings to see what Santa brought us. But the those smaller gifts paled in comparison to the moment I had waited for all year. Once the stockings were empty, we would all gather around the tree and go for the gold! Once the wrapping paper was all over the floor and the house was basically a mess, we would go over to our relatives whom we seldom saw, for a very formal Christmas dinner. (If our relatives hadn’t provided more presents, I think I would have opted for staying at home.)

While my family talked about Jesus Christ in a nominal way, I never really knew Him personally. But once I grew older, I learned about what Jesus gave us in a new way, and I experienced the real meaning of Christmas. Once I met Jesus, I found that the truth about Him and His gift to us could be experienced all year round.

In spite of my newfound faith, I later made some bad choices in my life. These choices partially obscured my childhood memories and my immature understanding of Christmas, but while loneliness replaced much of the joy and fun I’d had back then, my life took on a new depth that only trials can bring you. I learned more about the joy and security that can be found in Christ. Instead of just thinking about myself and the fun I could have, I learned that Jesus wants me to try and think of others first.

Upon reflection, I’ve learned many things about the Christmas season and its true meaning. I learned that people experience pain and heartache during this season just as they might at any time of year, and that the same Jesus that no one had room for in the Bethlehem inn is often crowded out in busy shopping malls and stores.

I learned that the message of Christmas did not stop in a manger that held a sleeping child, but rather found its climax in an empty tomb. Since God in human flesh came down to live, serve and save mankind, I learned that all of us who claim His name should share the gift of His love and joy with others.

Don’t get me wrong. I have recaptured my earlier Christmas spirit. Giving gifts and having fun with family is great, for I believe that Christians have a reason to laugh and celebrate the birth of God’s son more than anyone else. But when we think about the tremendous gift that He brought us, we should share it in our actions with others on a daily basis.

Jesus told us that if we want to be great in His kingdom, we need to love and serve one another. He also told us to let our lights shine so that they will glorify God and not man. Like the little drummer boy or the widow with two talents, you may think you don’t have much to give others, but that just isn’t true. We all have a sphere of influence, no matter how humble.

Since I am reminiscing, I will share a lesson my mom taught me without saying a word. I grew up in an upper middle-class town, and right across from us was little more than a shack that hadn’t been torn down. The man who lived there was sick, and his wife was bed-ridden.

No one went over there to help them out except my mother. She faithfully bathed him and washed his hair as often as she could. Because of my mom’s example of service, I try to take Jesus’ spirit of love and compassion with me as I visit lonely and frustrated patients in the hospital.

Think about what a different world it would be if this was the way we portrayed our savior to others. Instead of merely setting up Christmas lights around your house, work on letting the real light of Christmas shine out from you. After all the parties are over and the presents are opened, think about how you can be the hands and feet of Jesus to someone else. One small act of kindness can make a very big difference.

Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 377 E. Chapman Ave., Suite 260, Placentia, CA 92870. Finally, check out our online store at www.amway.com/burdicksbargains.

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