“The true light that gives light to everyone,” writes the Apostle John, “was coming into the world” (John 1:9).
And so each year at this time, we drape our trees, our homes, our churches, our cities and towns and villages, with innumerable lights. Every one of them, even if it’s nothing more than a glowing red light on Rudolph’s nose, is silent testimony to the bright truth that “the light shines” even “in the darkness.” Not only has the darkness “failed to put it out” (The Message), it’s precisely when darkness deepens that the light seems to blaze ever more brightly.
Ah, it must be maddening indeed for the prince of darkness and his joyless slaves to see their night-shrouded malevolence so quickly burned into oblivion by even a little light from the Son. One word of truth and dictators tremble. One word of hope and fears melt away. One great laugh from a good face lit up by a warm living heart and stuffed shirt politicians go pale, atrophied hearts too calcified to allow the flow of humility’s mirth or mirth’s humility. One word of joy and sowers of dissension are struck mute. Even the slightest current of light’s warmth spells approaching and certain defeat for a cold ocean of darkness. The light always triumphs.
Whether we live largely oblivious to that truth, or whether we embrace it with all of our hearts, every light we hang burns in silent tribute to the reality that the light seeping into the darkness surrounding a Bethlehem stable that amazing night is the light of the victory of the Father of Lights.
That little trickle of light would become a wave of luminescence, and that wave would surge inexorably into a tsunami of brightest joy. Even the worst that Satan could do with a cross would three days later be brilliantly overcome by the light of life blazing forth from a vacated tomb.
So we hang the lights at Christmas. Call them Christmas lights. Call them holy-day lights. Call them whatever you wish; all of them are His.
Maybe it’s just me (I bet it’s you, too!), but I can’t walk into the quiet church sanctuary, the living room at home, or even out onto the porch in the chill of night—any place where Christmas lights and electricity are available—and not plug them in so as to bask in the glow. Were I embarrassed (and I’m not) about being childish, I might say we’ve hung all these lights at the house mostly for the grandkids—and I do indeed love seeing the light reflected in those beautiful eyes—but I’d hang the lights and trim the tree if I was the only kid in the room.
One might say that it’s all basically illusory, artificial and pretty pathetic, just light we ourselves engineer and string and plug in to lift our own spirits and make ourselves feel better as we and all of humanity muddle through life mostly in the dark. Many say that whatever small glimmers of light we get here will be what we strain to create.
All I have to do is glance at our Christmas tree and see the little cross hanging in its branches, completely surrounded by light, and I know better. I plug in these little lights not in a pathetic attempt to defeat this world’s night but as a proclamation that darkness has already been mortally pierced and that even the smallest glimmers and twinkles of joy proceed from the brilliance of God’s grace, God’s truth, God’s Son.
All light is our Father’s.
Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.