Summary: Light and Christmas are a powerful combination that can only be fully acheived and enjoyed in the glow of the world’s One, True, Light, Jesus Christ.
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack frost nipping at your nose, Yuletide songs being sung by a choir, and folks dressed up like Eskimos. Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe, help to make the season bright. Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow will find it hard to sleep tonight.” I always enjoy hearing those lyrics at this time of the year because they paint the picture of a “perfect Christmas” in my mind’s eye.
Although I’ve never roasted chestnuts over an open fire it sounds like a fun thing to do. I’ve never been terribly fond of cold weather, so as far as I’m concerned Jack Frost could nip at someone else’s nose. The Zahn family has decided to celebrate Christmas with a non-traditional menu this year – with enchiladas and tacos serving as the main course. I can’t say that I have ever really understood the story behind the mistletoe. And in my household it’s not just the tiny tots whose eyes are all aglow as they look at the presents under the tree. So maybe the lyrics to that familiar song aren’t technically accurate about what Christmas will actually look like at my house this year.
Yet, there’s something about that song with which I can identify, not in the details but in the imagery. It’s the striking depictions of the various images of light that always flood my mind with thoughts of Christmas. Light and Christmas are a powerful combination. Take tonight for example, we are here, gathered to bask in the glow of a small sea of candlelight. I’m guessing that during this month more than a few of you have soaked up the Lights Before Christmas display at Riverbanks Zoo. Perhaps some of you will leave this evening and spend some time driving around town, through various neighborhoods to gaze upon the beautiful lights of Christmas strewn on trees, bushes, homes, and garages if you haven’t done so already. I’m willing to bet that for most of us this evening will conclude around a Christmas tree, warmly decorated with colorfully illuminated strands of light with faces young and old lighted with excitement by the presents that are waiting to be opened. Yes, light is a powerful part of Christmas.
Have you ever stopped to think what Christmas would be like without light? Would the season be the same if there weren’t any light displays in our neighborhoods, at the stores, and around the city streets? What if we didn’t fill the branches of our Christmas trees with tiny, twinkling lights; would the tradition of bringing a dead evergreen into our living rooms be nearly as inviting and attractive? Would the light on our faces and the glow in our hearts be just as bright if there were no gifts waiting for us at home? Would the mood of this worship service be different if it were a service of darkness instead of a service by candlelight?
What if we tried to celebrate Christmas without the one true light of the world, the light of Jesus? Let me put it another way: Would we be able to find just as much joy, excitement, and warmth in this season by lighting candles, wrapping gifts, decorating trees, homes, and bushes even if Jesus had never come to this earth? Or let’s probe a little deeper into the attitude of our hearts: Would we be just as filled with anticipation, overflowing with joy, and beaming with excitement even if we didn’t have all of those other images of light – but we still had Jesus?
The answers to those questions are so important because they reveal where our true joy and our true light are found. Our answers to those questions are important because they are an evaluation of how well we’ve done in resisting the temptations of the world that wants to shroud the real light of Christmas under an abundance of peripheral, inconsequential activity so that we miss out on time for meditation and meaning at this time of year. We need to constantly ask and answer those questions as a test of our hearts to see if we’re drowning under a sea of sentimentality that closes our eyes to the true spiritual reality of Christmas, that is the light of hope and the ray of love beaming from our heavenly Father’s face, brilliantly revealed in the birth of his eternal Son as a baby boy in the town of Bethlehem. If we answer those questions truthfully don’t we all have to admit that there have been times that we’ve fallen prey to the assaults of materialism? Those attacks are launched often at this time of year with the common refrain: “You want, you need, you gotta have,” that ceaselessly try to pull our attention away from the true light and meaning of Christmas. I must shamefully admit that there have been times that those attacks have been successful in my life. How about in yours?