Light Shines in the Darkness

from the pen of Jeff Joyner

As Christmas was approaching, I reflected on all that had transpired the previous few years. It seemed that everywhere I turned, people were hurting, pain was running rampant, and darkness was threatening to settle over the whole earth. As I pondered this for a while, I finally said in a one sentence prayer: “It’s a weary world, Lord.” As soon as I uttered those words, one of my favorite Christmas carols immediately came to mind:

O holy night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the
Dear Savior’s birth

Long lay the world in sin
And error pining
Till He appeared and the
Soul felt its worth

A thrill of hope
The weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a
New and glorious morn

Fall on your knees
O hear the angel voices
O night divine, O night when
Christ was born
O night, O holy night
O night divine

Jesus is the hope for a weary world. And though it may appear that darkness is settling over all the earth, it’s important to remember, that this Jesus who’s birth we celebrate is the Light of the world. And this LIGHT will come once again, to usher in another “new and glorious morn.”

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” John‬ ‭1:5‬

Make EVERY Effort to Live in Peace

I think this verse points to part of the problem about the lack of peace in both the church and the world. We have to make an effort. Peace doesn’t just happen. We can’t just say to ourselves, “I’ll just leave people alone and they will leave me alone,” and expect to attain peace with others. It would be nice if it were that easy, but it’s not. Wherever we go, there are people. Worse, wherever we go there are people who disagree with us, annoy us, and even deliberately cause trouble for us. I suppose we could just stay isolated at home and never go out, but I think that’s how crazy cat ladies get their start. (apologies to any non-crazy cat ladies).

Human beings are made to live in relationships with each other. We have friends and families. We have neighbors and co-workers. We have Christian brothers and sisters. Being in relationships with these people is critically important to being a human being. Yes, they are sometimes the cause of aggravation (so much aggravation, it seems). Yet God has created us in such a way that we need these relationships in order to function and serve God’s purpose for us. The New Testament doesn’t tell us to avoid people. In fact, it tells us to interact with people. It tells us to inconvenience ourselves in order to interact with people.

That brings me back to this verse from Hebrews. We have to make an effort to live in peace. We need to interact with people and we need to make an effort to do so in ways that maintain peace between ourselves and them. In fact, the verse says to make EVERY effort. Now, I’m often the king of moderate effort. I’ll make a few easy attempts to live in peace with someone, but I have to admit it’s often easier to just avoid them and live without them. The challenge, then: in order to make EVERY effort to live in peace with people, I have to look inside myself and examine what it is about certain people (oh, so many certain people) that irritates me. Even worse, I have to look at those things about myself that irritate others (oh, so many things).

I know, I know. That’s not exactly a Christmas message of joy to the world and peace on earth. Still, Christ came into this world to save us from our sins and to regenerate our spirits. We have the Holy Spirit living within us. We have the Word of God to guide us. It’s okay to look at ourselves and our feelings and thoughts honestly. God is there to guide us, to help us see ourselves clearly, to continually offer forgiveness for our sinful, selfish human elements. If we want to make EVERY effort to live in peace with everyone, that’s part of the process. So we can try to avoid people. Or we can make moderate efforts. Or we can make EVERY effort. That’s what Hebrews says to do.

All is Calm

from the pen of Jeff Joyner

I was having my coffee one morning, a few days before Christmas. To be honest, I wasn’t excited about Christmas at all. In fact, I was already tired of Christmas music, long before Christmas Day had even arrived. Instead of experiencing the hope and wonder of the season, I was filled more with anxiety and concerns for the future. And then, a song came to mind, that I have sung every Christmas, as far back as I can remember:

Silent Night
Holy Night
All is calm
All is bright

As I thought about these words, I began to understand that this song not only describes the birth of Jesus, but also depicts what Jesus brings to hopeless sinners such as us, when He takes up residence within our heart:

He can silence our worried thoughts, even in the midst of our darkest night. He imparts His holiness within us, to bring restoration to our broken lives. In the midst of this tumultuous world, we can experience a peace and calm, that only He can bring. And because He has given us the greatest gift ever given, our future is BRIGHT. We need not fear the days ahead.

Silent night, Holy night, All is calm, All is bright. May you experience all this and more, as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke‬ ‭2:11 

See less

My Peace I Give to You

Continuing my thoughts on peace during the Christmas season, I find myself meditating on the words Jesus spoke to the disciples. He seems to indicate two types of peace. The peace He gives to us and the peace the world gives to us. Admittedly, I have never found the world offering me much in the way of peace. It feels more like the world is generally offering me anxiety, although that could just be my reaction to the circumstances around me.

I suppose the world does have things to offer that bring peace to humans. A walk on the beach. A hike in a forest. A place at the top of a tall hill or mountain with a beautiful scenic overlook. A financial windfall (I’d very much like one of those right now). These types of things are temporary, though. You usually have to go searching for them. When you find them, they don’t last long. You have to return to the busy, anxious place you started from.

Jesus promises a peace different from the world’s peace. He’s telling the disciples that even though he is leaving them physically (his death on the cross is imminent), he is leaving them with peace in their hearts. I think he’s telling us modern day Christians the same thing. Our faith in Christ gives us peace in our hearts. We don’t have to go searching for it. It’s within us. It’s the presence of the Holy Spirit. It’s the hope of eternal life. It’s found in God’s written revelation (that’s the Bible) that almost all of us have sitting on shelf in our homes.

It’s good to seek the world’s peace, at times. It’s even better to seek God’s peace, which is available to us if we just take a few minutes to reflect on all that we have as believers in Christ.