Wholly Living

6 Ways to Brighten the Light of Christmas

During the month of December you can be a star. Do your part to brighten the light of Christmas. by Victor M. Parachin

Christmas is a season of light. People adorn their trees, homes and windows with lights. The first link between light and Christmas came from the ancient Jewish prophet, Isaiah, who had this vision for the future:

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned.”

(9:2, NIV)

Centuries later, the disciple John connected Isaiah’s words to the birth of Jesus:

“His life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”

(1:4-5, NLV)

Here are some ways to brighten that light, for yourself as well as for others.

1. Return A Past Kindness.

Think of someone who was kind to you in the past. Reach out to that person and return “in kind” to him or her. It could become an unforgettable blessing.

In her book, The Ten Things to Do When Your Life Falls Apart, Daphne Rose Kingma recalls that as she walked along a beach near her home one day, she saw a group of men passing stones to one another. Some of the men packed the stones into rows on the sand to create a gently sloping walkway from the path above to the sandy beach below. One of the young men explained they were doing it for a 93-year-old woman who had been kind to the men when they were teenagers. The woman had recently been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. One of her last requests was for the men to take her down to the beach to enjoy one last ocean sunset. The man said they were going to pick up the woman from hospice and wheel her down the path to the water’s edge to celebrate the sunset together.

2. Practice Forgiveness.

St. Paul advised: “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). If a family member has offended you in some way, consider letting it go and extending forgiveness. If a distant relative or friend was hurt by something you did or said, consider extending an apology and seek forgiveness. Christmas celebrates God reconciling us to Himself. It is an ideal time to follow His example.

Forgiveness was the December wish of writer Alice Camile: “If I’m on your gift giving list this year, let me speak plainly: All I want for Christmas is to get off the hook… I just need forgiveness—to give and receive it. So let’s call a moratorium on things wrapped in paper and give the gift of forgiveness instead. It’s the one thing we all could use. It has zero calories. It’s one-size-fits-all.”

3. Maintain an Attitude of Gratitude.

Throughout the entire holiday, count your blessings. Some people fixate on problems during the holiday — commercialism, materialism, obnoxious relatives, the high cost of celebrating, etc. A better holiday will result for you and those around you when there is a sincere attitude of gratitude. “Cultivating gratitude is a very powerful practice that balances your mind’s tendency to focus on what’s irritating or what’s lacking in the present moment,” says Phillip Moffitt, author of Emotional Chaos to Clarity. “Constantly focusing on the negative aspects of your experiences can lead to a distorted perception of life. Doing so tends to flatten your experience of being alive, kills your joy and deadens the sense of possibility. Gratitude liberates your mind from this morass of dissatisfaction.”

The attitude of gratitude resulted in a memorable gift to a group of trash collectors. One bitterly cold December morning, long before the sun was up, they were picking up the trash in front of one home and found three envelopes on the trash bin, one for each collector. Inside was a gift of cash with a note from the resident saying: “I do not take for granted that day after day, week after week, and month after month, my trash is faithfully collected and removed. Thank you and merry Christmas.”

4. Renew Your Hope.

Even if you feel as though you are struggling through the holiday, try to let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future. Trust that God is guiding and directing your life to a better place. Remind yourself of these encouraging words from the Bible:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister learned this when she was a young child. In her book, Happiness, she writes: “My father died when I was three years old. That did not seem like a good thing to anyone then — or maybe ever. But one thing of which I’m sure: if it had not happened I would not be sitting where I am right now writing these words. And this part of my life is the best I’ve ever had. My young widowed mother could have whined her way through life and taught me to do the same. Instead, she walked through the pain to another life — and took me with her. She laughed and never looked back. She made no shrines to the past, no matter what happened to her.”

5. Be a Source of Love and Compassion.

Joel Osteen, a minister and author observes that “everywhere you go these days people are hurting. People are discouraged; many have broken dreams. They’ve made mistakes, and now their lives are in a mess. They need to feel God’s compassion and His unconditional love. They don’t need somebody to judge and criticize them, or to tell them what they’re doing wrong. More than any other human attribute, I believe our world is crying out for people with compassion, people who love unconditionally, people who will take some time to help their fellow sojourners on this planet.”

This is a season of peace, love and joy. Be a person who models and offers others God’s unconditional love and compassion.

6. Turn to Prayer Over Despair.

Though the holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and celebration, for some people it is just the opposite as they experience greater stress, isolation, sadness and depression. If you’re one of those for whom sadness increases during December, remember you are not alone. In fact, St. Ignatius of Loyola suffered greatly from depression. He wrote this prayer seeking God’s help for dealing with it:

Oh Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and we feel weak and helpless, give us the sense of Your presence, Your love and Your strength. Help us to have perfect trust in Your protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten or worry us, for, living close to You, we shall see Your hand, Your purpose, Your will through all things.

During the month of December you can be a star. Do your part to brighten the light of Christmas.

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