Christmas traditions are different the world over, aren’t they? In Africa for example, where I grew up, we didn’t decorate the outside of our homes like they do in America; but inside was an entirely different matter! We had a Christmas tree, of course—massive to my eyes as a child—and it was always decorated with loads of tinsel and amazing glass ornaments in the shapes of exotic birds and nutcrackers. But my most vivid memories are of my dad laying out intricately detailed plans for decorations on the table in our home, then using those plans to pin yard upon yard of brightly colored foil garlands and decorations from the ceilings of our old mine house on the Zambian Copperbelt. Everything was designed to fit just so, and every decoration would be in just the right place. It was my father’s loving contribution to the family Christmas, plotted out long before the holiday in his careful, small handwriting and then executed with the precision of a craftsman.
When my husband and I came to America with our own family, I was surprised not only to find how many Christmas decorations were on the outside of the homes — but also how many lights they included! There were even friendly neighborhood competitions to see who could make the best display. The dark, crisp evenings of winter became a magical time to walk our children past the different houses decked out with string upon string of twinkling lights.
I liked this new tradition because it reminded me of the words spoken by the prophet Isaiah approximately 700 years before the coming of Christ in that dark Bethlehem stable. God made the promise in Isaiah 9:2: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” The various displays were beautiful reminders not only of that promise but also of Christ’s claim to be that light in John 8:12 when He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Over the succeeding years, I watched my late husband carefully design and decorate our own front yard with garlands of twinkling lights, glowing nativity scenes and sparkling angels. It was his labor of love for us, his family; and his devotion reminds me now a bit of my father, who made his own loving preparations for his family all those years before, half a world away.
There’s another father who comes to mind as I think about those lights. Christmas has always been a wonderful expression of our Heavenly Father’s love for us. And He also carefully worked according to a plan — a plan He had laid out from the beginning:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5)
May I wish you a blessed Christmas Season, filled with the love of the Father and the light of His Son.