children • education • parents
relationships • marriage • the elderly


You Will Set the World on Fire

December 28, 2018 by

“Light has come into the world, and every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?” —Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Dad, stop the car – lights!”

We gawk out the car windows at yet another tour de force of exterior illumination in our neighborhood. Up on the rooftop, a Frosty the Snowman warms his ample posterior over a flickering fire next to the announcing angel who flaps her arms and wings in mechanical cadence. 

Down on the lawn there is a sizable detachment of Clauses standing sentry, guardians of the Christmas Spirit, hands outstretched in friendly greeting, expressions molded in a state of permanent cheer.

“Dad, I like those icicles that drip light along the eaves. And look at all the different light combinations on the trees – that must be a lot of work.”

I notice we are now holding up traffic. Other cars have seen the display and pulled over, wanting their turn.

Let's let the creative energy of Christmas be a catalyst for transforming our own negatives into creative triumphs.

I appreciate these sculptors of light, and how they give a moment’s joy to unknown passersby. Who knows what person may be heartened by their inspiration? Altruism is defined as unselfish regard or devotion to the welfare of others. As we drive around appreciating the numerous displays, I think: What better inspiration for altruism is there than what occurred at Christmas – that long-anticipated daybreak that dethroned the powers of darkness? In victory, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1–5, 14).

God the Creator sent his Son to live and sacrifice his life on this earth and he didn’t destroy and divide – he forgave and restored. And consider the constructive tools he left behind to continue this work – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22–23). Not arrogance, hate, and violence.

I’m sometimes tempted to view this past year as a dumpster-fire of scandals and tragedy, and I get despondent and wonder how it can get any worse. But then I found this quote by Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges about using bad experiences as fuel:

A writer – and, I believe, generally all persons – must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.

This “art” isn’t limited to only traditional mediums; everyone has God-given strengths, talents, and inspiration that can be employed. I am inspired by this idea of applying the creative energy of Christmas into a catalyst for transforming our own negatives into creative triumphs. Catherine of Siena said to “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

Star Of The Hero painting by Nicholas RoerichNicholas Roerich, Star of the Hero

We can do better to support and encourage each other, raise people up, forgive, and not just point fingers and criticize. We all can illuminate dark places, spread joy, build bridges, scale walls, clothe and feed people, and increase community in some way. This may seem daunting at first, but then consider the bad steward in the parable of the talents. He feared failure and rejection over investing his time and abilities the way he should have (Matt. 25: 14–30). And it didn’t turn out so good for him.

So, whether you’re more the Frosty type sharing your warm fire, or a Herald Angel with remarkable wings and some good news, I doubt it really matters as long as we do our part.

Turning the car around to drive back home, I see in the rear-view mirror the reflective glow of the lights fade away in the slush of the street.

These displays will soon be taken down and returned to storage for another year, but there is a lingering smile on my kids’ faces and inspiration in their eyes.

“Dad, can we do our house just like this one next year?”

Laboring together, be our actions great or small, the light will spread and intensify. So peace to all and a productive New Year.


About the author

man drawing on a screen

Jason Landsel

Jason lives in upstate New York at the Woodcrest Bruderhof.

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