If there’s one certainty about the Christmas season, it’s that we’re going to see lots and lots of lights. Lights on Christmas trees. Lights on poles along streets and roadsides. Lights on houses. Neighborhoods and communities even stage competitions to see who can design the most innovative, elaborate light displays – sometimes synchronized with accompanying music.
We see lights inside blow-up snowmen and reindeer. Candles in windows. Lights everywhere we look in the malls. Sometimes even Santa Claus can be spotted with lights dangling from his outfit.
I’m a big fan of these lights. In our home we have two lighted trees, one large and one small, along with the lights from inside our Dickens Village collection of miniature houses. Bright, warm, cozy-looking. Almost enough to encourage me to engage in some light humor.
With the Tennessee River running through town, Chattanooga residents conduct an annual Festival of Lights in which boaters decorate their crafts with lights – a water parade with floats literally afloat.
My online research friend, Mr. Google, tells me the tradition of lighting Christmas trees dates back to 18th century Germany, using candles. Sometimes with sad consequences. (I think that might have been the origin of the phrase, "Don't try this at home.")
Thomas Edison used his incandescent light bulbs to provide Christmas illumination around 1880, and the Savoy Theatre in London became the first building in the world to be fully lighted for the holiday with electricity.
A couple of years later one of Edison’s associates, Edward Johnson, prepared the first electrically illuminated Christmas tree. There’s no truth to the rumor, however, that Debby Boone used that occasion to sing “You Light Up My Life” for the first time.
The point is, people have been lighting up things during the Christmas season for centuries. While the original motivation seems unclear, it likely has a practical basis, related to the fact that December in many parts of the world has the shortest days and the darkest nights. That’s enough reason to load up on festive lights.
But there’s a more profound reason for making lights central to the celebration of Christmas. In Isaiah 9:2 it states, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Then in Matthew 2:2, the Magi who had journeyed a long distance in search of the promised Messiah asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
Later, speaking to the multitude of people that were following him, Jesus declared, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
So it seems altogether appropriate to celebrate the Christmas season with a wide and often amazing assortment of beautiful, colorful lights, commemorating the birth of the One who promised “the light of life.” As it sometimes appears darkness in many forms is bearing down on us from every angle, we can use all the light we can get.
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.