Ahhh – the sights…the sounds…the smells of Christmas!
I walked into my mother’s home last night and it smelled soooo good! Cookies! Before her heart attack, Mom had mixed up the dry ingredients for six or seven kinds of cookies, put them in bags, and labeled them. My sister had baked a couple of batches before I got there, and the evidence still hung in the air. It brought me back to my childhood. One of my favorite childhood memories is of running all the way home from school and finding the house smelling deliciously of home-baked cookies. Mom always made double and triple batches of twelve or thirteen different kinds of cookies for Christmas – enough that she could give platters away to friends and still have plenty left for us! My brother teased her last week when she had her heart attack that, although she had to take it easy, the doctor had said her heart was still in fine shape for making Jumbo Raisin Nut Cookies. Thank goodness, my favorites, the kolachys, were already made!
And Christmas music – each year I have to restrain myself from starting in too early singing, playing and listening to my favorite Christmas carols and songs. By the first of October I usually cave. I start playing them on my harmonica – for Robbie, of course. “We have to practice so we’ll be ready by Christmas,” I tell him. He beams, perfectly willing to go along with Mom’s eccentricities. Some of his favorite songs are Christmas songs, too. I love them all – old and new, secular and sacred. I sing and whistle around the house all year long, but it’s a continual concert for Bob and Robbie when this time of year comes around! Aren’t they lucky? And for every regular CD I have, I probably have five Christmas ones. I just cannot resist.
Then there are the Christmas lights… Oh, how I love Christmas lights! To drive down the streets and see the neighborhood transformed into something pretty and sparkly on a frosty winter night, and main streets and malls ablaze with color and light… To watch the lights on my own tree twinkle and shine in all their multi-colored splendor… To bask in the warm glow of cozy firelight or candles… I love Christmas decorations, but if they’re lit up, all the better!
My Christmas tree cannot have too many lights. Bob and I go through that discussion every year. “You don’t need more lights,” he says. “Yes, I do!” I insist. This year I got back from Ecuador to find that he had put the tree up for me and put on the lights. It’s pre-lit – but not enough for me. I add several more strings. Last year it had almost 1000 lights. Bless his heart. He was doing something really special and sweet for me – but to my shock and dismay I discovered he had put three strings on that didn’t even work! He forgot to test them first. I took them off and went out to buy some more lights on December 8th, and to my further shock and dismay, discovered Target and WalMart were totally out of lights and weren’t getting any more this year! I got the one box I could find and had to settle for that, but next year I’ll be out in October buying more lights!
I love light. I’m one of those people whose mood is affected by dark, gloomy days. I wish my living room got more sunshine. One of the things I loved most about living in Colorado was the 300 days a year of bright, sunshiney weather and its big, clear blue sky. I love sparkly things – the Electric Parade at Disney World; fireworks; stars as you drive down a dark highway at midnight; sunlight as it glints of the surface of a lake; gaudy sweaters… What is it about light that we all like so much? As I thought about the lights of Christmas, I realized that there are several things that lights do that relate to us – we who are to let our lights so shine in this world that they might glorify our Father who is in Heaven.
John 1:9 says, “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Jesus said in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” He also tells us in Matthew 5:14a, 16, “Ye are the light of the world… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
The first thing I realized light does is attract. You know how a porch light in summer attracts moths and other creepy, flying little critters. That’s why merchants use neon signs and spotlights and begin putting up their Christmas lights and decorations in October – to attract shoppers and their money. As lights in this dark world, our lives ought to attract others to ourselves, and ultimately to the Lord. They should see something in us that they want in their own lives. A Christian who is living her life for the Lord will stand out. Her compassion and kindness will attract and bring opportunities to tell others about the love of the Lord.
Secondly, light illuminates. Candles are a beautiful symbol Light of the World who came at Christmas to pierce the darkness of this world. If you were to go into a deep, dark cave and light just one little candle, you would be amazed at how that one small flame would illuminate and brighten the blackness of that space. Light reveals what the darkness hides. Have you ever tried to put on your makeup in fluorescent light? Yikes! It reveals every flaw, every spot and wrinkle! The glory of the one, true Light of Christmas revealed to sinful men His perfection and their own sin and shortcomings. To some it brought conviction and repentance. To others it brought hatred and the desire to extinguish that Light. We are not perfect like He was, but the light of our lives as we strive to live holy, separated lives unto Him will bring conviction to those around us. Not everyone will love us. Some will scorn us, but deep in their hearts they will be convicted of their own sinfulness.
The third thing that light does is provide warmth. How wonderful to snuggle close with a loved one in the flickering light of a crackling fire! To draw close to the fireplace, or a bonfire and warm you hands and toes and backside at the fire – ummm! The light of our lives should provide warmth also for those around us. Our love is the fire that will provide comfort and encouragement and warm the hearts of those attracted to our lights. Jesus called us lights, but He also said they will know us by our love. Do others feel the warmth of your love and compassion?
Of course, the most obvious thing we notice about the lights of Christmas is how they beautify. I enjoy driving around and looking at the lights. What a difference they can make! They can turn an old, run-down neighborhood into a beautiful fairyland of twinkling, sparkling beauty. I can never decide which I like best – the elegance of all white lights, or the gaiety of multi-colored lights. They’re both beautiful to me. Our everyday, ordinary living room is transformed each year when we bring out the decorations and tree with all its special ornaments and twinkling lights. The lights are turned on from the moment I wake up in the morning until I go to bed at night. There is nothing sadder-looking to me than an unlit tree. And when the lights are reflected in windows and mirrors, it’s even more beautiful! That’s how the light of our lives should be – reflecting His light, brightening and beautifying this world. Do you remember the old chorus, “Let the Beauty of Jesus Be Seen in Me”? I pray His beauty and light is reflected in my life.
As we think of the lights of Christmas, we cannot forget the Star — the star that appeared as a sign to the wise men, announcing the birth of the King of kings… the star that led them mile after mile, month after month directly to the house where the young child lay. That light was a sign and a guide, and so ought our lives to be – lights that point the way to the one true light of Christmas, Jesus Christ.
This is the one time of year when the world looks in our windows and sees our lights. This is the one time of year when perhaps they are more receptive to hearing about spiritual things. And yet we have the Light, the Truth, the best Gift of all – Jesus – all through the year. Let’s not be guilty of dragging out the boxes of lights, dusting off the old heirlooms and traditions and putting them on display once a year. Our lights ought to shine brightly all year long, reflecting the true light of Christmas that attracts and illuminates, warms and beautifies, and guides lost ones to an eternal and personal relationship with Him.
Reflecting off new-fallen snow,
And up and down the street I see
The twinkling lights on homes and trees,
And in the windows candles burn.
It seems that everywhere I turn
The lights of Christmas brightly shine,
Reminding of that ancient sign –
A star whose brilliance pierced the night,
Whose glory was a wondrous sight.
A star which eastern wise men saw,
And filled their seeking hearts with awe.
A star which left a blazing trail
That led to a King so small and frail.
And yet the babe they found that night
He is the one true Christmas Light.
In Him was life and light of men
To shine in a world made dark by sin.
His glory far out shone the star
And reached down to men who’d wandered far.
For like the star the Light had come
To show lost man the way back home.
The true Light of Christmas – Praise His name!
The Light of Christmas, Jesus, came!
C S Griffith — 1995