The Lights of Christmas Must Shine Throughout the Year

We may have taken our Christmas lights down, but we must not let them go out.

During my pastor’s homily at our Christmas Mass at Midnight he commented on the beautiful decorations loaded to the gills with lights of many colors; some flickering, others radiating a steady glow. After complimenting those who had helped put them all together, he pointed out that while the decorations were indeed beautiful and fitting, they ought not be permitted to deflect attention away from the Christ Child—the “Light” come into the world—laying in the manger who should occupy the center-stage of our attention during the celebration of this holy season.

Later on as I thought about what he said, I remembered a recent drive through the city’s west side shortly after dark. I drove by a number of elaborate and indescribable home and yard decorations with what must have been thousands of lights. One was so impressive that I pulled over and just gazed at it for a time. I remember thinking, WOW! What a display! Then I drove on. I was so taken by the dazzling exhibition that I never gave a thought as to why it had been erected. The same was true of a number of other displays that slowed me down as I looked, but never once gave a thought to their reason. My pastor was right. It was easy for me to become so absorbed in the decorations that I never even thought about what they were for.

Of course I knew. We all do. But I did forget, at least for the moment, and now I find myself wondering whether there might not be children who are so overwhelmed with the splendid arrays of lights we put up each year that they never quite make the connection or have a real understanding to what they are all about, or at least find it almost impossible to focus on the real reason for the season. It is my hope that readers will discover something helpful in striving to avoid such a possibility for their children and grandchildren that I write this blog post.

The prologue to St. John’s Gospel speaks of a life which was the light for all mankind; a light which shone in the darkness but was not comprehended by it; a light that enlightens everyone who comes into the world; a light that, to those who receive it, empowers them to become sons and daughters of God. There are a lot of lights in only 14 verses.

The Book of Exodus tells us that Moses was drawn by a strange light to the top of Mt. Horeb where he discovered its source—a burning bush which, although on fire, was not consumed. This is the same Light St. John wrote about speaking to Moses centuries before the apostle was born. Moses was empowered by this Light as he went forth on its behalf to free God’s people from their bondage at the hands of the Egyptians.

The Light referred to by St. John and the Light of the Burning Bush are one and the same—Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, born in a stable at Bethlehem, coming into the world to free all mankind from its bondage to sin. “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven….” [Nicene Creed]

Although I’ve used the word light 13 times in the preceding paragraphs, there is but one Light. This reminds me of the number of lights in Christmas decorations in relation to the one Light the season celebrates. Why so many lights when there is but one, and one only, Light of the World? The answer is really quite simple.

“He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.” The Light of the World who was born in a stable at Bethlehem and freed us from our bondage to sin is no longer in the world in an illuminative sense. Jesus Christ is truly and substantially present in all the tabernacles of the world. Yes, but hidden under the sacramental veil. He is present in the Scriptures and the Deposit of Faith entrusted to His Church. Yes, but only to those who access it.

It is his people on whom the Light of the World now relies to continue shining in its darkness. It is through the joyful light that glows in our eyes; through the words which pour forth from our mouths; through the dispositions of faith, hope and love we display; and through the example our actions provide that He is shown to the world.

And might this not be what the lights on trees during the Christmas Season ought to symbolize—each light representing one of His people? Of course, unlike the tree lights which come down at the close of the Christmas Season, His light must continue to shine through each of us throughout the year.

The question we must answer during the next Advent Season is whether or not we have. If we have, we must resolve to continue shining and perhaps even brighter during the next year. And if we have not, or if perhaps we’ve flickered like so many Christmas tree lights do, we must resolve to improve and make of our lives better, little lights preparing to be mounted as Christmas decorations when the next Christmas Season comes around.

Deacon Bob Ellis
National Coordinator



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