Here I was in the woods without a light. It was opening day of deer hunting a few years back, and I was heading out to my deer blind before dawn. The night before, while sitting around the campfire, I realized I failed to bring my flashlight. Being a repeat-offender-forgetter (I had forgotten my sleeping bag the year before), I was not about to get unmercifully belittled by mentioning my situation to the other guys, let alone ask if anyone had a spare flashlight. Besides, I decided, I can do this. All I had to do was take the path out of our deer camp up to the pines, skirt them for about 500 yards, take a little jog to the fence line and then follow it right up to my spot. No problem.
Heading up the path that morning, I did not get any help from the moon, and consequently, things were a little darker than I anticipated. At first, I was not deterred by this. I just trudged on thinking my eyes would adjust. For some reason, instead of taking my time, my legs moved faster and faster. After a short while it was clear to me that I became confused and went off course. As the sweat began to pour out, I faced the reality that I was not going to make it to my blind before sunrise.
We began exploring last Saturday in this weekly column how the true light of Christmas changes lives. There are many lights at Christmas, but the Lord Jesus is the true light and he can reshape and refocus your life. This begins to occur when we are ready and willing to let go of ourselves and trust the Lord and his goodness.
An important way Jesus changes us is by shining a new path, which points to a new life direction. This new way is quite different than the way our normal tendencies and thought patterns would take us. And that is the point; God's desire is to transform us from self-centered into God-centered living.
In Matthew 2, the Magi (or wise men) appear, desiring to find the newborn king of the Jews. The Magi were scholars who studied the stars from the east, more than likely from the Parthian empire. Somehow, it had been revealed to them that God was doing this great thing in sending his promised one and they decided to join in. They left their land to chase the true light of Christmas, despite inconveniences.
In Matthew 2:11 it says, "On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh." Their interest in traveling was not just to see an event, but also to worship the Lord Jesus. In worshiping Jesus, the Magi re-prioritized their lives to make the Lord their center, placing Jesus in his rightful place. They were now on a new life path and it had an effect on every part of their lives including their generosity toward the Lord.
A danger at Christmas is we can be exposed to the true light of Christmas and not be changed. This is the story of Herod the Great. He was aware of the Magi searching for Jesus and offered to help them for underhanded reasons. King Herod was all about one agenda -- his agenda. History tells us that Herod was very political, living by the "you scratch my back and I will scratch yours" mantra. If political influence did not work, he was ruthless in accomplishing his selfish ends, even eliminating his wives and sons. When the Magi did not cooperate with him, Herod issued a decree of infanticide of all the baby boys two years and younger in the area of Bethlehem. Self-absorption leads to regrettable acts.
How different would your life look if God were in his rightful place? What would it be like to make decisions based less and less on selfish reasons? How would you feel if you came to the point in your life where you were joining God at what he was up to? I encourage you to allow the light of Jesus to shine a new way of living. You, as well as others in your life, will not regret the transformation that will take place as you become a light-chaser.
Norm Byers is the lead pastor of Genesis Church. Genesis meets at 9:30 a.m. Sunday at North Central Michigan College and 11 a.m. at Boyne City Elementary. More information is available online at www.genesiswired.com, or comment on Twitter @NormByers.