by Dale Reeves
I love the traditions that are part of our celebration of welcoming the Christ child into our homes every December. One of my favorite things to do this time of year is to drive around and enjoy the many Christmas lights that are on display in many neighborhoods. If you want to take in some of the homes that are doing their best to make the season bright, check out this link of Cincinnati neighborhood lights.
Last weekend, my wife Karen and I went with several of our grandkids to the Cincinnati Zoo’s “Festival of Lights.” Perhaps you’ve been able to see it this year or in past years. USA Today calls them the “best zoo lights in the USA.” There are over 4 million LED lights at the zoo in almost every color you can imagine, and when you pull in the parking lot, you are greeted by a huge “Fiona” hippo nutcracker.
In the epic film, Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswold had 250 strands of lights, 25,000 “imported Italian twinkle lights” on his house. If you display lights outside your house and all around the inside, do you prefer the pure white ones, multi-colored-bulbs, small lights, large bulbs, or meteor shower lights—and are you energy efficient with LED lightbulbs? Perhaps you’ve seen the national contest on TV, “The Great Christmas Light Fight,” in which families across the United States take Christmas light displays to the next level. These houses are unbelievable. Check out some of those homes here.
Jesus Shines Brighter
Where did the tradition of decorating with lights begin? As is true of many of our Christmas traditions, this first began in Europe. In the middle of the 17th century, the people of Germany put candles on their Christmas trees. They were intended to represent shining stars. The Irish placed a single lit candle in their windows on Christmas Eve as a sign of welcome. They wanted homeless wanderers like Mary and Joseph to know that a warm welcome awaited them in their home. This custom spread throughout Europe, and eventually America. The first Christmas tree that was decorated with stringed lights in the White House was in 1895, when Grover Cleveland was the president. The tradition has been carried on every year since.
The apostle John tells us, “God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants” (John 3:19-21, NLT).
This world can be a very dark place, can’t it? Wars, perversions, crimes, atrocities, prejudice, disunity. Darkness hates the light. We know that Jesus says he is the light of the world, but he calls us to be part of his light-bearing this season. We are challenged in Philippians 2:15 to “Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people” (NLT). No matter how dark our world becomes, Jesus shines brighter. This season may we shine the light of Jesus into some of the darkest moments in the lives of others.
The Best Light Ever
Some 700 years before baby Jesus burst onto the scene in the little town of Bethlehem, the prophet Isaiah spoke of a dark time when the children of Israel would consult mediums and spiritists to discern their future rather than consulting the living God. He challenged them instead to look to God’s instructions and teachings. Isaiah looked forward to a time when the Messiah would come, the Deliverer who would lead the nation into joy and prosperity.
“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. You will enlarge the nation of Israel, and its people will rejoice. They will rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest and like warriors dividing the plunder. For you will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders. You will break the oppressor’s rod, just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian. The boots of the warrior and the uniforms bloodstained by war will all be burned. They will be fuel for the fire.
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!” (Isaiah 9:2-7, NLT).
Of all the Christmas lights that have ever been plugged in and strung together, Jesus himself is the best light ever. He said, “I am the light of the world” just after intervening between the woman caught in adultery and her accusers. To her he was the best light ever.
To the leper who had been cast aside from society, he was the best light ever.
To the man terrorized by demons who was cutting himself and swearing, he was the best light ever.
To the prostitute who was only desired for one thing by most of the men she had met, Jesus was the best light ever.
The magi that traveled from the East and brought gifts to the Christ child followed a supernatural star that led them to the best light ever!
Do you need some peace in your life, in your soul, in your home during this Christmas season? Jesus, the best light ever, is all of these and more! We may not have 250 strands of lights at Christ’s Church, or 4 million LED lights, but we have thousands of bulbs on our stage and in our lobbies. What if every single one of us who claim to follow Christ would add to that number by taking seriously Jesus’ charge to be the light of the world to those around us? As children of light, we shine forth his message of hope and freedom to people we know who are living in darkness.
Evangelist Dwight L. Moody once said,
“We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining—they just shine.”
If you’d like to be part of a church where we will each take our “little lights” and let them shine together as we sing “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve, you are invited to join us at 4:00 pm or 6:00 pm at our church building on December 24.
In the meantime, for the rest of this month, and into 2023, just shine!
[click image for our Christmas Eve Service times]