December 10th, 2021 by Sara Buffington
The weekend after Thanksgiving my husband pulled down our "four boxes of Christmas" from the garage shelf. Storage is limited in our house, so we have gone a bit minimal when it comes to Christmas decor.
We also have a live tree. I'd like to tell you it's because we like the look and smell of live trees (and this may be true for everyone else in my family), but my main reason is that we don't have to store it January through November. Plus, we save it for kindling in our outdoor fireplace; it burns like flash paper (which is a little unsettling, I must say).
So over the years we have whittled Christmas down to four boxes. One box holds the Nativity set. One box holds the Carollers. One box holds the ornaments. And the last box holds the lights and the tree skirt.
We untangle the colored lights for the tree (yes, we are a colored light family), and then we untangle the white lights for the porch. They are the worst.
But the lights are also magic.
My husband and I moved to Florida from Virginia 14 years ago. We moved the first week of December, and it was a complete culture shock.
First of all, people were outside. In December. In flip flops.
Second, there were palm trees and green leaves everywhere. The mosquitoes were still buzzing in the air.
Third–and this was the most striking–Christmas lights were everywhere.
I wondered why this could be. Were the people in Florida just more into Christmas than those in Virginia? Did Lowes and Home Depot target their advertising here?
My reigning theory is that Floridians use Christmas lights as a visual reminder of the Christmas season. In Virginia, we had environmental cues: chilly temperatures, dustings of snow, and leafless trees. The signs of winter and Christmas were everywhere.
In Florida, we have the lights.
Our kids were just 1 and 2 when we arrived. Aside from family, we didn't know people here. I didn't have friends yet, and I spent a lot of time at home with my young children.
The highlight of the day was the evening. We would get the kids ready for bed and then put them in the double stroller. Then we would walk through the neighborhood, admiring all the lights.
There is something magical about the colorful twinkling, don't you think? Christmas lights look rather messy during the day, but at night they dazzle you.
This year our church put forth an enormous amount of effort to assemble a Charlie Brown Christmas light display for our city's Winter Wonderland of Lights.
Sheryl Shaw masterminded the whole thing, and so many of us, from our youth to adults, stapled lights, hung backdrops, and covered the ground with white quilt batting (our Florida version of a blanket of snow).
We propped large Charlie Brown characters against wooden stands that Craig Reilly built. We donned Christmas hats and waved to passersby and called, "Merry Christmas!" hundreds of times.
The first night my son Levi and I joined Sheryl as "wavers." I got a headache in 10 minutes from the glare of the car headlights. After 20 minutes my cheeks started aching from smiling so much. I tried variations of sing-song "Merry Christmas!" I danced to the Christmas tunes to help pass the time.
And what was our return?
Why should you put up Christmas lights?
Every car that drove by us that night was filled with smiling faces. We saw phones held from the sunroof to record the passing lights. Sheryl called from her post at the beginning of the display, "Hey, can you spot Snoopy?" Little voices chimed out, "I see him! I see Snoopy!"
We posted a sign for our weekly Bedtime Stories on Facebook. You could hear people remark, "Look! Bedtime stories!"
Levi and I stood by our last sign, "Merry Christmas!" and called it out to every car. Nearly everyone wished it back. Eyes were full of delight and wonder. Smiles lit up every face.
It was more concentrated happiness than I have seen in a long time.
I'll admit something to you. This year I am struggling with finding focus in Advent. I want to focus on the coming of Jesus, but frankly, I am so busy I can barely take a breath.
Yes, I need to make room for him. But I think I also need to find him where I already am.
Lights are beautiful because they mimic the stars that God created, the first herald of the newborn King. Christmas lights point to Christ.
When we prepare our homes for Christmas, it is an outward sign that we are preparing for the joy of Christmas. He has come to be with us–that is worth the sparkling lights and the greenery and the shiny ornaments. It's worth celebrating!
Maybe our neighbors aren't seeing Christmas lights as a herald of the newborn King, but they respond to them anyway. They feel the palpable joy. They know that this holiday is different for a reason.
Each year as you untangle your lights to hang on your porch, you are sharing your wonder, celebration, and expectation of Christ this Christmas with your neighbors. And when you do it with intention, you make a little room in your heart for Jesus our Emmanuel.
Christmas lights are worth it.
How do you share the joy of Christmas with others? Where do you find beauty and joy this season?