In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
It happens, usually too early for most of us. You can bet that by mid-October we’ll see Christmas decorations filling the aisles of the stores we frequent. Everything from evenly stacked boxes of lights, to every size and shape of tree, to full-out inflatable lawn dioramas will assault our eyes—a signal that, ready or not, the show has begun. But if the spirit of Advent is all about waiting, then it would seem wise to try (emphasis on try) to resist a premature start to the season. In other words, how about waiting until after Thanksgiving to visually adorn our homes?
Advent calls for a little bit of resistance. We can’t do much about the big box store where we get great deals on five-pound bags of tortilla chips, but we do have some measure of control over what happens in our homes. In fact, there’s no better way to prepare our eyes for seeing the season than to spend a few days knee-deep in thankfulness. There’s a cleansing aspect to gratitude that is simply good medicine—a practice that prepares us to look and see.
Our family has lived in suburbia for almost 15 years now, and when the holidays roll around, about 98 percent of our neighbors put up lights. There are the warm whites, the multi-colored, the blinking twinklers, the icicle jobbers that hang off the gutters, and—as of last year—a rotating laser show. Beyond that, there may be a Christmas tree with ornaments in a front window or a life-sized Santa anchored on a rooftop—it varies depending on the neighbor’s personal beliefs or non-beliefs about this time of year.
I’ve always found it interesting that almost everybody tries to do his or her small part to make the season bright. I’m no philosopher, but I sense there’s something there for us to notice: People, religious or not, realize the hold that darkness has on our world. We may not always be able to articulate it, but we feel it and try (emphasis on try) to do something about it.
We as believers can miss such moments if we’re looking without seeing. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but it’s really not. Someone might ask, “Oh, you mean looking with the eyes of your heart, right?” and I would say, “Well, maybe, I guess.” But what I’m really talking about is looking and seeing via the eyeballs in your head: your God-given sense of vision.
The Advent season calls for a heightened sensitivity to light, and that starts with being attentive to the lights around us—in our neighborhoods or our apartment complexes, the stores and businesses we visit, even our workplaces. But if we stop there, we stop short. The challenge (in a good sense) is to allow those lights to cause us to pause and ponder what a gift this season truly is. And to then give thanks. In other words, the lights can guide us to worship.
Prayer: Father of lights, may we never become blind to the lights of this season, and what all of us are trying (emphasis on trying) to say when we hang them. May we also never become blind to the people around us hanging or not hanging lights. Shake us awake to our senses. Remind us we carry in our lives the Light that the darkness will never comprehend. Amen.