on Light

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” ~ Edith Wharton (1862-1937), American novelist and short story writer

Well it’s that time of year again: the first few days after the Thanksgiving holiday when we hope for good weather so we can put up all our Christmas decorations. And it’s also that time of year when we eagerly go from thankfulness for all our blessings to anticipation for the blessed holiday to come. One of the ways we celebrate the season is by brightening up the night with cheerful little beacons of thousands of tiny lights on our porches, rooftops, and front lawns.

Have you noticed that lately Thanksgiving has become somewhat of a speed bump on the way to the Christmas season? I would like to think that it is because we are all so excited to celebrate the birthday of Jesus, however you and I both know that is probably not the case. Christmas has become so commercialized to the point that its original purpose is being forgotten, so much so that retailers even fear saying its name in their well wishes, opting instead for the more PC term of “Holiday”. Have we really gotten to the point that everything that we love about this time of year – the lights, the gifts, the festivities – no longer exist to celebrate the main purpose of Christmas, which is the birth of Jesus?

Growing up, Thanksgiving was seen by my family as the first step in an act of remembrance, where we looked around at all the good things in our lives and gave thanks to God for His provision. We followed the enduring tradition set by the early settlers and leaders of this country in recognizing who it was from which all our blessings flowed. Thanksgiving prepared our hearts for the next event – the remembering and receiving of the light. So, instead of partaking in the Black Friday madness, we put up all of our Christmas decorations, which included lots of lights inside and out. Our childhood favorite was the challenge of decorating the giant pine tree out back, which seemed to grow faster than we did every year. There was lots of hot cocoa, eggnog, and Christmas carols. After we were all done, our entire house just glowed.

As an adult, I now follow that family tradition, although on a smaller scale (I sadly no longer have the endurance or flexibility of a 10 year old). After giving thanks for our blessings this past Thursday, I set about making our home glow too. With Christmas carols ringing throughout the house – even outside – I put up our tree, strung lights around our front porch, and put electric candles in our windows. There is just something about a house lit up with all those tiny lights in the middle of winter, isn’t there? No matter how dark it is, as soon as they are all switched on, the darkness must flee. The gloom of night that surrounds the house fades and a feeling of cheery, welcoming warmth enters in.

I guess it makes sense then that we use lights in the anticipatory celebration of the birth of Jesus. After all, it was His birth that dispelled the darkness and hopelessness that had surrounded mankind up to that point. And once He was born, His light was one that could never be extinguished. Dark hopelessness had no choice but to flee His coming, as the warm light of hope entered in its place. It always struck me as odd that Thanksgiving comes before Christmas. After all, if it were not for His birth, how would we even understand the need, or have the heart, to be thankful for all the blessings that we have in our lives? But I guess knowing that now helps us be able to truly celebrate the reason for the season, as a thankful heart can better understand how precious the light really is.

I hope your Thanksgiving was more than a fleeting thing on the freeway to Christmas mania, and that you took time to give thanks and also remember He who should get the credit for all your good things. If it were not for the birth of this one child, that first tiny light that permanently pierced the darkness, the world would be a far darker place.

 “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” ~ Plato (428 BC- 348 BC), Greek philosopher

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