When my bride and I first moved to our Florida home five years ago now (where does the time go?), we did not arrive until after Christmas, so we were not involved in decorating for Christmas or anything like that. But that only lasted that one year. By Christmastime the next year, we were looking to decorate our home in a festive fashion.
Now, when I say decorate, I mean inside decorations. Generally speaking, we have never done a lot for outside decorations because we always felt that we did not want to do too much to attract attention to our home. So we went all out for inside decorations, but outside, in the past, we have done very little, if anything at all.
That lasted one season here in Florida. After the first year of not doing anything, one day my bride had just left our home on one of her daily walks when she encountered one of our seasonal neighbors, one who is here every Christmas, outside her home putting strings of Christmas lights in her shrubs. Neighbor Dottie made the comment that, “It sure would be nice if the year-rounders would put up lights outside, so we seasonal people would have a good example to follow.” That began for us a new experience of putting lights outside on our fence, on our light post and all across the front of our home.
You know, putting lights on our homes in the dead of winter seems ridiculous on the surface, doesn’t it? But so many of us, like Clark Griswold in “Christmas Vacation”, seem to enjoy the festive atmosphere those lights create. So every year we put up more and more Christmas lights to help to create that atmosphere. When our kids were little, we enjoyed driving around the neighborhoods looking at the various light displays and marveling at the creativity of so many of our friends and neighbors.
I’m not sure if it is completely true, but I am told that the original intent for lighting our homes during this season was to make sure that Santa Claus could see our homes while making his rounds and would not miss our home. The more creative the display, the more likely he would be to stop and leave his treasures underneath the tree.
But Christmas trees themselves are another story. From the very beginning, they have always had some sort of lights on them. But why? I mean, Santa will not be able to see inside the home, will he? No, but as I understand it, originally Christmas lights on the tree were used to simply light up the insides of homes in the dead of winter. The lighted tree was always a welcome source of good feelings and cheerful dispositions.
But lest we dwell too long on the subjects of Santa and cheerfulness, for the Christian, the reason for the lights is obvious. We want to celebrate joyously the birth of Jesus Christ, who came and accurately proclaimed that he himself was the Light of the World. “In Him [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men… There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.” (John 1:3,9)
Even later, when infant Jesus was brought to the temple in Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord, an old man named Simeon was standing there, waiting. When he saw the infant Jesus, Simeon took the baby in his arms and blessed God and declared that Jesus was, “A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:32)
Jesus is the Light of the World. And no matter what other lights you may see, as we celebrate Christmas this year, please grasp the fact that Jesus as the Light of the World came into this world to dispel all the darkness wherever He shines forth. After thanking Him for coming into this world this Christmas, the only question(s) to ask yourself are: Have I come to the Light? And if I have, is the Light shining forth into my neighborhood, my workplace, my family, my friends through me? This Christmas, let us all commit ourselves anew to letting his light shine for and through each of us.
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor. He can be reached at email@example.com.