One of the many things I love about the Christmas season is the lights. Seeing these beautiful, colourful illuminations fills me with joy, excitement and anticipation, even on the gloomiest of days and in the gloomiest of times.

As Christians, we are called "the light of the world": "You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father." (Matt. 5:14-16 NLT)

In other words, each one of us is a light. In the same way that a house all decked out in light strings, tree wraps, icicles, nets, garlands and projectors stands out at night as a beacon of colour, we are to shine in our witness for Christ. And just as people don't go to all the trouble to put up Christmas lights on the back of the house, but rather, on the front where they give light to the entire neighbourhood, we are told to let our witness shine as lights before all mankind...Why? So that they can see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven!

The one frustrating thing in putting up Christmas lights is that for most light-strings, if one bulb isn't working, an entire section won't light up. In order to make the lights work properly, each individual bulb must then be inspected to ensure the glass is unbroken, the light is properly inserted into its socket, and the filaments are still intact.

In the same way, there are things that cause our witness to stop shining forth as lights. Sometimes this is because we've been broken down by trials, illness, life circumstances. Sometimes it's because we aren't properly "connected" with the rest of the light string, our fellow Christians. Sometimes it's because of something internal, such as we have allowed doubt to creep in and our faith has become weak. But what does it matter? There are so many other lights around us. Who cares if we aren't shining brightly?

Remember that when even one bulb isn't working on a light-string, it is noticed. It is the same with our witness. We make a difference on an individual level!

But wait. Am I being too harsh? After all, who among us would "choose" to not shine for any of the above reasons? I mean, we haven't exactly "selected" cancer or any other illness. It is never our "desire" to have all these financial or family problems. We certainly would never have "chosen" for a loved one to pass away. Nonetheless, life happens. Troubles come. This is where we find ourselves. As our attention shifts to the problems at hand, we stop focussing on Jesus, our ultimate "light source", and our lights stop shining. We become disconnected, broken apart. Is it any wonder that when we don't see immediate answers to our prayers, our faith weakens?

But do these things have to disconnect us? Is it truly because of the troubles that our faith weakens?

The answer is "no". It is perhaps not our choice to go through trials, but it is our choice to "become disconnected" by shifting our attention away from God. It is our choice to focus on the circumstances, on the seemingly unanswered prayers, and when we do, this results in the "broken filaments" of weakened faith. It is our choice whether or not we allow these things to break us.

How much better would it be in the face of our trials to focus completely and totally on God? To accept His will, to allow Him to carry us through the valleys, to focus on His miracles of the past? To firmly believe that no matter what, God's purpose will be accomplished, and we truly don't want any other outcome?

I recognize that this is all harder than the simplistic view I've just described. Nonetheless, the choice is ours: Do we focus on the problems? Or do we focus on the God of the universe? Is it for naught that we are told, "And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise" (Phil. 4:8 NLT)?

When we decide to focus on Him, then despite our circumstances, our witness will continue to shine brightly. No matter what you are going through right now, think about this the next time you see a house all lit up for Christmas!

In His love,
Lyn

Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author -- "Aboard God's Train -- A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer", Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.