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TONY ELDER: Let the light of God shine in you all year round, not just at Christmas

I've always enjoyed Christmas decorations.

When I was a child it was a regular activity this time of year for our family to hop in the car in the evening to ride around and see the lights. As far as I know there weren't any of the extensive professional productions you can find today -- the ones you often have to pay per carload in order to ride through and view.

We simply drove through certain neighborhoods where we hoped, and sometimes knew from past years, that there would be a few houses and yards brightly illuminated.

I must confess that I don't care much for a certain type of outdoor decoration that has become popular in recent years. I'm talking about those inflatable characters.

I guess they're OK during the prime viewing time after dark -- they're certainly big and gaudy enough to be easily seen. But most people don't keep their inflatables operating during the daytime hours. So all you see as you ride by in the morning are what look like some colored tarps littering the yard.

It's like looking at the remnants of the Wicked Witch of the West after Dorothy threw water on her. I keep visualizing this awful picture of Santa slowly deflating while wailing, "I'm melting! I'm melting!"

Even the characters which are kept off the ground by being hung up lose their form when deprived of air. I've seen a few such Santas hanging down from branches in the middle of the day who look like they've been on a 40 day fast.

By the way, most of those inflatables seem to be of Santa, polar bears, snowmen, and other such cute characters. I don't recall having seen any of them portraying the Nativity scene. Have you?

I hope that we're not like those inflatables -- shining our light and taking the shape of a follower of Christ only during those peak times when we know others are watching. We know how to outwardly make ourselves resemble the form of Jesus. We know how to appear to be inflated with the Spirit of God.

But it shouldn't just be something we turn on when we go to church on Sunday or when we're around certain other people. We need to seek to be like Christ all the time, even at work or at home. We should be filled with the Spirit and living like it even when we're completely alone with no one watching.

The Bible does say that we should let our lights shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify God (Matthew 5:16). That doesn't mean that we're only to turn those lights on at certain times in order for others to see them.

We're not decorations who are meant solely for show or characters to be inflated to look like Jesus only when we know others are around. That light of Christ needs to be burning in us all the time. The Spirit of God should be filling us and making us more like the image of Christ in those off-season moments as well as when we're in the spotlight of prime time.

What do we look like when no one else is around? Does our light grow dim? Do we maintain our Christlike shape or do we deflate into something that bears no resemblance to the love, purity, and holiness reflected in the character of the Lord?

It's fine if you choose to have a deflated Santa in your yard most of the day. But as followers of Christ, let's seek to be like Him and to shine for Him at all times.

The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.