I've always enjoyed Christmas lights, especially on the tree. My father allowed me to help with setting up the tree and putting on the lights and it was a big day when I was allowed to be responsible for the lights all by myself.
Sometimes, late at night, I would go downstairs and light the tree. I would lay on the sofa and just take in the the beauty of the tree, and admire my handiwork as well. This became a special holiday tradition for me, and I still make time to sit in the living room with the lights off, admire the beauty of the tree (now decorated by our children), and savor the wonder of the season.
It is true that there is something magical about Christmas. The smells of holiday baking, the pine and poinsettias, even the twinkle lights are all reminders that there is something special about this time of year. Whether it is driving around town looking at holiday displays or sitting quietly by the tree, there is wonder to be found if we are willing to look.
Jesus often encouraged those around him to have eyes to see and ears to hear, and oh, how we need them. Sometimes, the very thing we are trying to celebrate gets lost in the celebration.
I remember hearing the story of a child who was praying aloud with his family. As they listened in, he offered up his concerns for them and the world and then closed with the Lord's Prayer, just as they did at church each year. He was going well until he offered up the words, "and forgive us our Christmases as we forgive those who Christmas against us."
We smile and laugh at moments like that, but there is much truth in that young child's mistake. Our Christmas celebrations can completely miss the peace on earth the angels declared as we clamor for more and more, reducing the season to the gifts and expense. Without time to slow down, we can miss what we need most.
There is a special blessing that comes from slowing down, looking at the Christmas lights and decorations, and pondering the real message of Christmas. Hidden in all of our hurry is the good news that God loves us and that God was willing to become like us so that we could know him more and that we could find in him, the life and peace that we so desperately need. As we pause for this Christmas meditation, we can find the the real, truly beautiful decorations of the season: love, joy, peace, hope and life.
To pass through this season without experiencing the wonder and life it brings will be much worse that the wrong present under the tree. This is God's present to us. May we receive it, celebrate it, and share it.