1 John 2:7-17
7 Dear friends, I’m not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the message you heard. 8 On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light already shines. 9 The one who claims to be in the light while hating a brother or sister is in the darkness even now. 10 The person loving a brother and sister stays in the light, and there is nothing in the light that causes a person to stumble. 11 But the person who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and lives in the darkness, and doesn’t know where to go because the darkness blinds the eyes. 12 Little children, I’m writing to you because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus’ name. 13 Parents, I’m writing to you because you have known the one who has existed from the beginning. Young people, I’m writing to you because you have conquered the evil one. 14 Little children, I write to you because you know the Father. Parents, I write to you because you have known the one who has existed from the beginning. Young people, I write to you because you are strong, the word of God remains in you, and you have conquered the evil one. 15 Don’t love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them. 16 Everything that is in the world—the craving for whatever the body feels, the craving for whatever the eyes see and the arrogant pride in one’s possessions—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world and its cravings are passing away, but the person who does the will of God remains forever.
Martin Luther may have been the first to think of sticking lights on a Christmas tree, but lights have always been associated with Jesus and the celebration of Christmas. What better way to celebrate the birth of the “bright morning star” than with strand after strand of festive lights. Jesus himself is the light shining in the darkness. When he is present darkness, and evil cannot be around; their very natures will not allow them to enter his presence. Every Christmas light you see should be a small reminder that the world is now alight in him, and darkness has no place within it. This is especially true in some Scandinavian countries where cemeteries are strung with lights, signifying light has conquered death.
At Christmas time we see hundreds of light displays, some simple others overwhelming, but all trying to “capture the meaning of Christmas”. When I was little, my dad even made a game of how many light displays we could count as we drove home. Yet, do we stop to consider that each of these displays springs from the tradition begun by Luther of reflecting Christ’s light in the world?
It seems fitting that by decorating a tree with lights, Martin Luther was trying to emulate the night sky, full of stars, one of which led the magi to Jesus. How many people place a lighted star on top of their tree? That light is leading us back to the tree and the gifts associated with it. The light on top of the tree leads us to the light which the tree symbolizes. I wonder if everyone who hangs Christmas lights recognizes them as beacons telling the world Christ can be found in this house. All those, who use lights to spell words like: love, joy, or hope, do they recognize these are invitations for strangers to seek those virtues inside the house? We so badly want love and joy that we are ready to write it in lights in public display. Are we willing to be the love and joy which those beacons are calling people toward? As you appreciate the displays around you and turn your own on and off, consider that you are bearing witness that Christ is in the world and “Christ is in my home.”
Lord of light and life, help me I pray to see your light spreading in the darkness, and help me, I pray, to be the beacon inviting others to find you as the magi of old. Amen.