There’s just something about Christmas lights. Something warm. Something quiet. Something peaceful. Something inspiring. Something meaningful.
There must be. How else can you explain the yearly ordeal that takes place at houses from coast to coast? What could possibly motivate us to go through the torture of unraveling and hanging these little strands of lights year after year? It seems completely insane!
We decorated our house for Christmas several weeks ago. That began, of course, with the tree. Allergies have relegated my family to the land of artificial trees, which means hours of sorting branches and fluffing needs. Then comes the annual battle-royal between my wife and my kids over where the “tacky” ornaments go. (Smurfette in a Santa hat? She would love the tree in the basement. Ditto for the snowman eating an ice cream cone. That’s sort of weird). The questionable ornaments go on the back of the tree, and the pretty ones get prominent seats.
Sorting takes a while . . . but nothing compares with the lights. I say the same things every time I pull the lights out of their card-board box home.
- “How on earth did they get this tangled just sitting in the attic?”
- “Did someone do this on purpose last year just to torture me this year?”
- “Maybe I should just throw these away and start over. Even if it costs a fortune, nothing is worth the effort of untangling this twisted ball.”
Nothing like Christmas tradition.
And then comes hours of draping and tying and stapling and double-checking bulbs. It is completely exhausting work . . . and the craziest part of all is that in less than forty days, the entire process must be reversed!
So why do we do it? Why do we subject ourselves to this sort of torture every year? Easy. It’s because of what happens next – the moment when we turn the house lights off and plug the Christmas lights into the outlet. To someone who has never experienced that moment, it’s difficult to explain. Something magical happens, as if the glow of the lights penetrates the heart. Suddenly, the craziness of the season disappears into the darkness, and all that remains is light. Warm, soft, peaceful, hope-filled light.
In some ways, I suppose that is the entire Christmas story. Matthew and Luke describe a dark night in an oppressed land in the midst of an upside-down world. Cruelty and licentiousness defined the times. Hopelessness was heavy in the air. The people wondered, “Has God forgotten us? Abandoned us? Turned His back on us?”
In the midst of that darkness came light. I don’t mean The Star, even though that fits. I am referring to The Light in the darkness – the light described by John in John 1: 1-10. Light came into the world, and even the oppressive darkness could not overcome it.
Truly, I’m not sure than anyone who visited Jesus as He lay in that manger understood even a fraction of who He was or why He came. But I do think they felt it. There was something beautiful. Something indescribable.
Something peaceful . . . warm . . . even hopeful.
For the first time in long time, light was shining in the darkness, and at that moment, none of the troubles and chaos outside of that stable mattered at all. All that mattered was the light.