|My neighbor's house...bright & beautiful|
When we lived in the rural piney woods of East Texas, we made many trips back and forth to the Dallas area. It is about 100 miles between the two and what did Dallas have that we were missing in the country? Well, for one thing grandchildren, then a major airport. We didn't take the road most traveled, but instead preferred a shorter route that brought us through numerous small towns and communities. The highway took us through valleys, rich with fertile black soil and oaks and pines lining the road. Other stretches of flat land were sparsely scattered with mesquite trees and very little to admire. The houses along the way ran the gamut from fine large ranch homes to extremely modest dwellings with varying cast-off appliances on the front porches and yards strewn with stuff that didn't work any more.
Obviously, some of these homes were not much to look at driving by...except for one time of the year. Christmas! Somehow, someway, the occupants of these well-worn houses managed to put up Christmas lights like you wouldn't believe. And so, after dark, uninspiring real estate along highway 80 turned into a jewel-colored, dazzling wonderland that always made me smile and feel warm and peaceful as we passed through it. And I often thought to myself, it must make the families living inside those otherwise nondescript houses feel special to have their homes transformed by shimmering light once a year. Maybe it even gave them hope for a better tomorrow.
But that's what light does! You know, like the light at the end of the tunnel. Like someone lighting up your life or letting your own light shine. Like the little pieces of light that suddenly appear in the dark places on your journey. Light is symbolic of sacredness, goodness, magnificence, new awakenings, guidance, warmth, comfort and so much more.
When Jesus was born into this world, Isaiah's ancient prophecy was brilliantly fulfilled: "For unto us a child is born....The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned...." (Is 9:6; 2 NIV). This was a defining moment in history and it was huge!
The Creator, who had previously used light--a burning bush or a pillar of fire--to make himself obvious on earth, supernaturally became a part of his own creation. God's son, with unimaginable humility, deliberately abandoned the fullness of splendor and glorious light of heaven to enter into the black darkness of a womb and be born of a woman. This tiny God infant, with his little wrinkled brow, his wispy, raven-colored hair and his enormous questioning eyes, became the light of the world through his extraordinary birth. He brought his light, the hope of all humanity, to the earth for the first time. "In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind...." (Jn 1:4 NIV).
That's why we put up Christmas lights. That's why lights adorn our trees, inside and out, and frame our houses and line our main streets. It is sublimely and beautifully symbolic of the salvation light that entered the world on the day of his birth.
Lots of people use professionals to string lights outside and the usually-tangled ropes of glowing bulbs are lined up perfectly. Others, like the big-hearted folks along highway 80 in east Texas, climb precariously onto their ladders and rooftops and haphazardly hang lights every which way. But it doesn't matter because when darkness falls, they all twinkle and sparkle like precious stones in the Holy City and stars in the sky, turning our surroundings into "all things bright and beautiful" and filling our souls with wonder. Glimmering Christmas "bling" is meant to remind us, though some may not even be aware of it, that the Lord Jesus is indeed our everlasting light.
*"All Things Bright and Beautiful" 17th century Anglican hymn for children, text by William Henry Monk