I had never seen lights ‘dance’ before. It was fascinating to sit with the kids as Christmas melodies filled the air and the incredible array of lights spread all over the house, the yard, the trees, and as the specially erected arbors flashed off and on in time with the music of Frank Mills’ Music Box Dancer. A slow stream of cars crept by as family after family came around to enjoy the show. It was an unforgettable night for us, and I was amazed at what technology could do to enhance and amplify the simple experience of looking at lights.
No Competition from Me ~
Since then, we’ve seen other light shows in public areas like festival parks, fairgrounds, and even a racetrack, but never a production on private property that came close to what we saw that night. Beyond candles in the windows and a wreath on the front door, our house is fortunate if it gets adorned with wreaths on the front windows and a little garland around the front door. If the ‘anti-Grinch’ guy who put on that show lived in my neighborhood, he would never be threatened by competition from folks like me. I have no combination of spiritual gifts or natural inclinations that would urge me toward confronting the technological complexities of getting all that audio-visual stuff to work in harmonious union with 10,000 plastic light bulbs. In spite of the potential that it might have to bless or impress others, I’d rather go to jail for a week than try to replicate a fourth of the stuff that guy had in his front yard.
No Appeal in the Daytime ~
While we’re on the subject of Christmas lights and outdoor light shows, there’s something else worth mentioning. Going by those places in the daytime isn’t nearly as appealing. The difference in the volume of traffic is nice, though—no lines of cars creeping along, no one peering out their windows, and no ‘Oohs’ and ‘Ahhs’ drifting through the air. The cars that do go by don’t bother to slow down, and most don’t seem to notice the display at all. What a fascinating difference a little daylight makes! The design of the display doesn’t change with the arrival of dawn. The wattage of the bulbs is the same, and the current running to them is available around the clock, but the whole program totally shuts down through the day. It seems that no one wants to go to a light show unless it’s dark. It isn’t that the darkness grants the colored lights their beauty, but without the stark contrast that darkness offers, few even notice that the lights are there, much less worthy of their time and attention.
Contrast is Critical ~
The principle isn’t complicated. Light contrasted against a dark background has always been more likely to be noticed. The power of the principle of contrast was never more clearly displayed than when God sent His Son into this spiritually dark, sinful world, and He was careful to point it out even before Jesus actually arrived.
When John, who would be called ‘the Baptist’, was born, Zachariah put his newly restored ability to speak to good use and erupted in a declaration of praise that included this prophetic statement:
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people By the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God, With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace” Luke 1:76-79 (NKJV)
Matthew employed the same metaphorical picture in reference to Jesus in the early days of His ministry.
“Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned’” Matthew 4:12-16 (NKJV)
God sent the greatest ‘Light’ of all into a world that was characterized by moral and spiritual darkness. Jesus was unmistakably and undeniably different. Some hated Him because of it, and multitudes cherished Him for that same distinction — but love Him or hate Him, the world couldn’t ignore Him. We seem to forget sometimes that we are sent to continue the same kind of contrast, and tend to follow our natural tendency to blend in and look just like the world around us. We don’t hesitate to engage in extravagant exhibitions of luminary hyperbole every December, but may cringe at the thought of being highlighted as morally and spiritually different.
Time to Turn on the Lights ~
It’s another clear example of ‘upside down thinking’ to imagine that the way to win this morally corrupt society is to be just like it. If there’s no distinction, there’s no attraction. We don’t question why nobody wants to go see Christmas lights in the daytime, and we shouldn’t wonder that Christianity is largely ignored in a culture where so many professed followers of Jesus ignore His words in order to look, talk, live, and think just like everybody else. A world engulfed in moral depravity this Christmas is desperately hoping for something different, something real, and something beautifully compelling. God wants to light up their night — with you and me.
© 2016 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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