This past Tuesday I was speaking to my daughter Margaret on the phone and she told me that she and her family were going to drive about an hour west in order to see a Christmas light display. When I talked to her later that night, she said that it was well worth the drive.
Most of us enjoy Christmas lights, don’t we? Many homes, this time of the year, have special lights outside just because of Christmas. Most of these light displays are rather modest, but some gather attention from far and wide. When our children were growing up, I can remember, on occasion, driving to certain neighborhoods that were known for their outside Christmas light displays. Now, we did not do that every year, but we always drove around our own neighborhood just to look at the Christmas lights.
But not only do we decorate the outside of our homes with lights, we also decorate the inside with lights. We all put up our Christmas trees, and before any decoration is put on we put on the lights. It took me about an hour and a half this year to string 750 lights on our Christmas tree.
The question is this: Why do we decorate with lights at Christmas? One reason why is that they are joyful and festive. As Christmas is a time of joy, and as it is a time to celebrate, it is appropriate for us to put up lights. Another reason might be because of the wise men. They followed a star, a great light, until it lead them to Jesus.
But there is another reason, a deeper reason, why we decorate with lights. Listen to the words of John.
John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 9:5 “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
We decorate with lights at Christmas primarily because in doing so we pay homage to the one who is the light of the world. He is the one who came in order to defeat sin and the devil. He is the one who came to put death on its heels, as we read in our text. (16) “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Jesus is the One who gives us hope even in our darkest hours. The lights of Christmas are symbolic of all of this. They are symbolic of Jesus who is the light of the world.
Very much related to this, we are reminded in Scripture that as people of faith, as disciples of Jesus, we are to reflect his light in our lives. We read in Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
While it is true that we are to reflect the light of Christ every day of the year, it seems to me that during this Christmas time of year we have special opportunity to do so. And so I ask the question, what is it that you are primarily illuminating this Christmastide? We all have had, or have, subordinate focuses. That’s a given. The shopping, the wrapping, the decorating, the baking, all demanded a certain amount of our focus. After all, we don't want anything half wrapped, half decorated, or half baked. And, many of us now are focusing on Christmas dinner.
All this is well and good, but Satan is constantly trying to move that which is to be subordinate into the dominate or superior position. Remember, this is what happened to Martha when Jesus came over for supper. She got so caught up in doing this that and the other thing, that she was neglecting time spent with Jesus.
Our American Christmas celebration is filled with many wonderful things, but we must constantly be on our guard to never allow these things to overshadow the reason we are celebrating in the first place. Form our outside decorations to the music we play on our phone or iPod, our light is to shine on Jesus. There ought never be a question as to what it is and who it is we are celebrating.
Jesus is the light of the world and we are all his Christmas lights. May we always reflect his light, not only this Christmastide, but the whole year through.