A man sat in a room with many others, working diligently on his assigned job. Hour after hour he sat, working and thinking. He thought of his family far away from him. He thought of his friends and all the memories they had made together. He thought of his small, secret congregation and hoped that they would be protected from the punishment that he endured in this prison.
As he sat working and thinking, the irony of his job suddenly became clear. He was in this place at this time because he dared to preach the truth. In his country, the truth of Jesus was told in secrecy. The government did not want the light of Christ to shine on the oppressed people. But here he sat in prison, forced to work on exports that the government assigned him.
What was his particular job? Making Christmas lights, which would be shipped all other the world, especially to countries that experienced freedom of religion, unlike he and his congregation. He smiled as he realized that in his suffering he could actually send light to the world. He could help others remember the birth of his Savior, he could help others celebrate the “good news of great joy” that the angel had announced to the shepherds so many years ago.
He sat in a room with many others, working diligently and thanking his Savior for the privilege of serving.
This is a true story, which I heard while visiting a spiritually oppressed country in Asia. I heard it from the man himself, now released from prison, still preaching as before. As he spoke, I saw joy.
When I returned to the States, I wasn’t sure I would be able to put up Christmas lights. It made me sick to think that oppressed Christians may have assembled my own Christmas lights. But then, I thought of the joy I saw on the man’s face. And I decided that I would put up my lights and lots of them. And I would use those lights as a reminder to pray for the oppressed Christians of the world and as a reminder of my First Love, the Light of the World.
As many of you know, we just returned from China with our new son, Charlie. He is 2 and 1/2 and full of joy and energy. He could not be cuter. And he is our Miracle Boy, too, in so many ways. Last week, we took our two youngest, both adopted from China, to see the Christmas lights. This will be Sally’s third Christmas with us, and though the lights were familiar to her, the excitement was still over the top. Charlie, on the other hand, has never seen anything like it. As Sally squealed and clapped, Charlie looked out the window with his tiny mouth hanging open, literally. He barely moved. He kept staring, with his mouth open and his eyes wide, as the lights twinkled in time to programmed music. The owner of the house was adjusting a section that was not working properly and I could imagine the frustration he was feeling. However, we rolled down the window to say thank you and to explain the joy that he had brought to my children. I hope he realized that even if my two were the only ones to see his display, it was worth the effort, so great was their joy. Make today count, my friends, even if it only affects a few. Blessings!
This week, as I hung the Christmas lights, I once again thought about the man I met in China. I always picture him in that dark, damp prison, working on those tiny lights. I have had a particularly hard time this year with my lights. Namely, them not working properly. Several times I have had to deal with part of the string of lights not working, while the other part still does. So, there have been several ways to fix that:
- Just hide the part that is not working. I have tucked them deep in the tree and tried to cover them up with ribbon or ornaments.
- Jiggle it at just the right angle and sometimes they will miraculously come back on.
- Realize that it is time to pivot. Start fresh with a new set of lights.
As I tried these three strategies, I realized that we do the same sometimes with the Light inside of us. We hide the parts that are dim; we cover that part up, hoping no one will notice. Or we need a jiggle to get our Light to shine more brightly. For me, that comes in the form of much-need time alone with the Lord. Or sometimes He will use an aptly appointed sermon or word from a friend or even a worship song that revives my spirit and fans into a brighter flame the Light inside of me. Or, sometimes I need to start fresh. I need to rid myself of the things that have snuffed out my Light…stress, people-pleasing, lack of rest, overt and covert sin… In those times, I remember that He, the Light of the World. the Light that causes me to shine…He makes all things new. Praise Him!