Lights frame front porches, glow in windows, sparkle over still green bushes. Down the highway, shining bulbs spell out ‘PEACE ON EARTH’ like they do every year, giant letters tall in an empty field.
There is something about those lights…something more than how pretty the colors look against the fading cold-weather land.
Every Christmas season, it is the lights that bring tears to my eyes, bring a big grin to my face, bring me back to feeling like a kid. Wide-eyed and excited, my sister and I used to watch for houses all lit up and point them out to each other…I love to remember the long drive home from my grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve with carols playing from the radio, the car filled with warmth, and the lights merrily brightening up the dark roads – it felt like they were there to guide us home. I’d lean my head against the chilled window, looking for strings of white and colored lights, watching the stars in the sky, feeling like the entire world was glowing in joy — just like the night the brightest of stars and glory-bright songs blazed to welcome the baby Jesus.
Back then, I couldn’t really name the feeling those lights woke in me. I just knew they felt happy. I knew they felt alive. I knew they made me feel a yearning for something I couldn’t quite figure out, even in my much scribbled-in diary or between the pages of my favorite books.
I’ve found that word now:
Sure, it may seem that a light is just a light. Colored strands of burning bulbs are only Christmas decorations.
But I think it means more. I think that there is hope in our collective decision to disrupt the darkness with lovely cheer. There is hope in a people who will, year after year, brighten the roadsides and long nights – refusing to end a year, no matter the hardship that it brought, in surrender to the darkness.
Instead of shutting out the world, we light up the town streets and shopping centers. We light up our churches and our homes. We light up our cars. I’ve even seen light-lined baby strollers.
Every year, we blaze out and say again – light is stronger than darkness. And, beneath the surface of all the Christmas jingle and jangle, those lights shine a brighter and steady truth.
The Light came into our darkness and overcame it.
Jesus came, when the time was right, and set our hearts alight with His glory.
He promised, when He left, that He would return and displace the darkness forever.
And as it seems the trouble increases all around, year by year, we choose to believe that His words are true.
We wait, ancient hope still new, for our Messiah to come once again.
These Christmas lights, they are sacred when we see their declaration:
we are keeping faith. We are keeping our home-fires ablaze, as a bride waiting for her soldier to return – prepared, always. Waiting, anticipating — expecting His arrival.
I see that giant declaration of PEACE ON EARTH – words said again and again — and I pray that I won’t become numb to their meaning. May we not hear this year’s carols and declarations of goodwill with ears listening for the tinny sounds of a holiday, but with ears attune to His redemption song — His melody, His promise, His plan unfolding — knowing the seasons are in His hands and His voice is our hope…knowing that every season He brings only draws the day closer that will dawn with peace and His reign.
One day, this whole world will be alight with His glory…evil will have no place. Darkness will be no more.
Until then…for now…we light another candle. Plug in another strand of lights. Trim a tree. We do the small things we can do to ignite remembrance of Him, to light up our corners with the knowledge that He is ever-near to us.
We live in an Advent-Season always. We draw our light, every day, from the source of all light – our Savior, Jesus Christ. But in these days that celebrate His incarnation, I pray that we will delight in the mystery of His love…the beauty of His sacrifice…the blessing of stars and the moon and the sun that declare His wonder…and, yes, twinkling lights adorning mantles and Christmas trees. May we light up our season in gratitude for what He has already done and in confidence that His light will guide us Home.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” ~John 1:1-5
(This post was originally published in December of 2012)