Tops on the list of what I love most about Christmas are the season's lights and music.
Although I am not one to outline our house in multi-colored lights or set up lit-up inflatable reindeers, snowmen and Santa Clauses all over the yard, I love it when others do it, and to them I tip my hat. One of my favorite displays is in our hometown, Bradford, where, every year on West Main Street, one man covers every square inch of his house and front yard with lit-up Christmas cheer. If it can be lit up and inflated and has anything at all to do with Christmas, you'll find it there. A couple years ago I saw him standing out front while slowly driving past, admiring his handiwork. I stopped, rolled down my window, and thanked him for his efforts. He seemed pleased with that.
Likewise, although I'm not a musician, I love Christmas music of all sorts, ranging from sacred to secular, ancient to modern, and serious to silly. The only exceptions to this, I fear, are the "Twelve Days of Christmas" song, which I think goes on nine day too many, and "Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas," which, for me at least, even Burl Ives can't make endearing. As I write, for example, I'm listening to carols sung by the choir of King's College Cambridge, although it could just as well be one of the members of the old Hollywood Rat Pack singing about chestnuts roasting over an open fire, or Brenda Lee rockin' around the Christmas tree at the Christmas party hop. I'm not overly picky when it comes to Christmas music, and we have a collection of albums and CD's to prove it.
What I like about Christmas lights and Christmas music is that they come only once a year, from right after Thanksgiving and through New Year's Day. They set off the Christmas season as a special time, a time that is different from the rest of the year, for only then are there such unique sights to see and things to hear.
Interestingly, even those who know nothing of the baby lying in a Bethlehem manger and who know nothing about a savior named Christ the Lord and nothing about their need of a savior, notice that this time of year is different, and they notice it's different because of the strange music and the bright lights illuminating normally dark houses. These mark this season as somehow special, if not particularly sacred. These often garish lights and odd songs about red-nosed reindeers and snowmen who come mysteriously alive can serve a spiritual purpose, for if one takes the time to think about it, these give rise to the question, "What on earth is this all about?" To ask this question, to think about these seasonal trivialities and to seek out the story that brought them about, leads one to spiritual realities centered on a baby born to a virgin, placed in a manger, and worshipped by shepherds.
For seeking hearts, a string of Christmas lights can lead to a God who loved His creation enough to send His Son. As God meets us in a baby, so is He willing and able to meet us anywhere, even in a string of Christmas lights.
Of course, at face value, the lights are merely lights, and the reindeer songs are simply fun songs sung at this time of year. Yet, their once-a-year uniqueness points us beyond themselves to the unique story of a Creator who loves His wayward creations enough to seek them out, becoming flesh and blood as they are, speaking a language spoken by human tongues and understandable to human minds.
So remember, when you hear songs about chestnuts roasting on an open fire, or see homes wrapped in multi-colored lights, that these lights and songs are pointing us, unknowingly, to spiritual realities that are Good News to a world that knows only bad news and is trying very hard to pretend that the lights are just lights ("holiday lights") and the silly and sentimental songs are just songs for children. But, these secular songs dimly echo the songs of angels; the gaudy lights covering your neighbor's house are the faint reflection of a greater light, entrusted to the eyes of Bethlehem's shepherds so many years ago.
May the gaudy lights of this Christmas season guide all our eyes to the One who said, "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).