Hanging Christmas lights both inside the home (and out) is a tradition that dates back to the seventeenth century. Only back then they used candles instead of the electric strands of lights that are used today. The use of decorative, festive lighting during the Christmas holiday season is a long standing tradition in many Christian cultures, and has been adopted as a secular practice in a number of other non-Christian, or predominantly non-Christian, cultures as well. Interesting enough, the Christian symbolism behind Christmas lights is rich indeed and yet missed by many. For instance during the time of advent, candle lights play an important role. In the Advent wreath, a blue or purple candle is lit for the first, second, and fourth Sundays of Advent and a pink (for joy) candle for the third Sunday of Advent. On Christmas Eve, a white (for the purity of Christ) candle is lit in the center of the wreath. The candle lights point us to the One True Light that is Christ. St. John in his Gospel reminds us what Jesus said about Himself:
“I am the light of the world. No follower of mine shall ever walk in darkness; no, he shall possess the light of life” (John 8:12).
“The light shines on in the darkness, a darkness that did not overcome it” (John 1: 5).
Candles and Christmas lights represent Christ, the Light of the World. But they also remind us that we are to be a light to others, to show them the way to Christ. This advent season may we not only see the beauty in the Christmas lights that are hung for the holiday but also the beauty in the One True Light that hung on the cross for our salvation.
A prayer for meditation: Lord, be my Light in the darkness and help me to be a light to others, to show them the way to you. When all seems hopeless, help me to remember that the darkness cannot overcome Your Light. You are the eternal Brilliance of God. May Your Light be my hope, my God. Amen.
May you also enjoy the incredibly funny and yet memorable scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation where we see Christmas lights displayed…as they should be displayed!