Skip to main content

An irreverent reverent look at lights

This week, I want to offer an irreverent, reverent look at lights: you know, the Christmas lights that people put up on their houses this time of year. 

I love looking at neighborhood lights. Doesn't make much difference if it is over-sized and gaudy reindeer scenes or a subtle and classy one-candle-per-window display.

The irreverent thought about neighborhood lights is this: I like to think of them as little "up yours" to darkness. 

It's no coincidence people put lights on their houses this time of year: December 21 is the shortest day (i.e., the longest night) of the year. Each day since what, June, there's been a little more darkness and a little less light. These lights seem to say "enough is enough, I miss the light, and if mother nature won't bring it earlier, we will!"  

It's as though we're fighting back, saying, "give it your best shot, Daylight Saving Time! Bring it on, darkness, sadness, despair, hopelessness. I'm putting LIGHTS on out there!" 

One evening late last week, I was out walking the dog and I noticed a house that had all these luminaries set along their front sidewalk.  I thought maybe they were having a party that night -- that the family had put them out there for a special occasion. But a week later, they're still there, and all lit up, and presumably have been each night. I got to thinking: the root of the word "luminary" is "lumen" from which we get "illuminate." And that family wants to illuminate things. They want to bring light into the darkness. 

Which brings me to the reverent thought: did you know the Gospel of John doesn't give us the Christmas birth story we're accustomed to -- you know the one where we get Mary and Joseph in the manger and the shepherds and angels and all? The Gospel of John doesn't give us a baby Jesus at all. 

Rather, it starts out "in the beginning," and we're told that in the beginning, there was The Word. This Word was with God and was, in fact, God. And the Word -- Jesus -- is described as coming into the world this way: 

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." 


These are SO much more than lights in a front yard. 

They are a "primal yalp" from those of us created in the image of God saying, "up yours, darkness! Let there be light." 

They're a reminder that when the days are shortest and the darkness lasts the longest, God, and God's people say, "let light shine."  

Popular posts from this blog

If there's a will, there's a way.

For Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that this year.
What I'm fasting from this Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
(Let me be clear: that does not mean giving up news or otherwise burying my head in the sand: it means staying informed while finding ways not to get pulled into a downward spiral of feelings of numbness and helplessness; it means giving up unproductive feelings like hopelessness and resignation and taking on visible behaviors like giving encouragement and taking action.)
It means making visible -- here, on my blog, and even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories…

Fasting from Discouragement, Making Visible the Good

So for Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.

But I'm re-thinking that.
Now one of the things I'm thinking about fasting from during Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
That would mean taking on encouragement: to make visible -- even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories" as being quaint -- they are tossed in at the end of the news as an inspiring story, or put in the style section. But stories of good things happening -- people coming together to do things, is not a touchy-feely, feel-good story, but something affecting real change.
So for starters: I'm inspired by the leadership example of…