I exhaled slowly, considering my response. I’ve been asked this question approximately 23 days in a row.
“But where are the lights?”
As I shuttle Harlow to school each day, we pass by the park. During the Christmas season, its halls, errr, pine trees, were decked with lights as far as the eye could see. There were vignettes of Santa’s workshops, blinking helicopters flying in gifts, and reindeer feigning feeding.
We made a special trip through the spectacle a few nights during the holidays, and sometimes Harlow and I would sneak through before drop off if we somehow managed to get out of the house before the sun’s rays made it too difficult to distinguish the glowing bulbs from the greyish bark.
“But where are the lights?”
I’ve explained to my three-year-old that the lights have been boxed and stored until next year, flashbacks of stuffing my own totes into the attic until the holidays roll around again. Somehow, the joy and excitement that comes with the Christmas season hasn’t lost its luster for my smallest little. We watched house after house disassemble their decorations from their porches. We discarded the last of the boxes we were holding onto in case the toys didn’t work correctly. All of the tags have been ripped from their garments as tiny fingers worked to pull them on.
But Harlow continues to ask where the lights are and ponder why all of the nativity scenes have disappeared.
During the holidays, we continued our daily prayer on the way to school, acutely aware of the thrill of hope, the anticipation that hung so thickly in the air. Waiting. Waiting for the parties, waiting to unwrap gifts, and waiting for Santa. We sang “Happy birthday” to Jesus. We parceled our toys into donation boxes. We played inside nativity scenes at the church down the road.
I felt a renewed sense of the spirit of Christmas this year through Harlow. Grey, at age 5, has a much more practical approach. He had a countdown for every event and was more interested in how the lights were plugged in than the nostalgia they provoked. But Harlow reminded me of myself at her age. Filled with wonder and easily star-struck by simple magic.
As each day drew closer to December 25, we could feel a change in the atmosphere. Even the sky was changing. Every day since fall up until the week of Christmas, the days had been short and dark. At winter solstice, the days started getting lighter and longer. Funny how even the calendar joins in the welcoming of our savior.
We looked forward to each day until the culmination of Jesus’ birthday – or the day we celebrate it anyway. Santa came, and we spent some sweet time together with family. But at the end of the day, as it is every year, it felt a bit lacking.
There’s so much build up and anticipation, but it never quite lives up to the hype.
But isn’t that the point?
Where are the lights?
Nothing this side of heaven is ever going to satisfy us. Nothing is ever going to be enough until we are spending our days alongside Jesus.
All of the lights and carols and time and gifts are meant to point to the One who is coming. The One who came and conquered death for us and is coming again. These wordly endeavors ignite the hope inside us for the One who is better.
We see the lights go up before Christmas every year, then we see them go away after the New Year. This elicits the same steadfast hope that we have in our Lord. He has shown us he is faithful, and thus we place our hope and assurance in that he will do it again.
I’m sure forefathers felt this same longing and ache for the coming savior. They had studied the Old Testament and knew of the promises God made concerning sending a king to save his people. They were not, however, expecting a baby. Much less, one that was so lowly as to find his cradle amongst the hay and animals. But he was a king nonetheless. King Jesus.
The One who would fulfill the OT prophesies from the line of David. The One who they had been waiting for – hoping for. The star shone above the little King who would grow to sacrifice himself for those who searched for him.
The shepherds and wise men looked at each other on their weary travels, asking “But where are the lights?”
They were guided to the Savior.
And here we are today, still looking for the lights. Still feeling the weight of the hope that reminds us a savior is coming. Even when it feels like there’s darkness all around us, the light remains. Though we don’t have the daily reminder of blinking lights on our neighbors’ porches, if we look, there is light.
When you find yourself asking, but where are the lights, look to the light of the world. He is our source of light, and through him, we can be salt and light and a city set on a hill. Let’s be the light this week.
Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
Matthew 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
John 8:12 “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Psalm 27:1 “The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?”
Hebrews 3:6 “but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”
2 Corinthians 1:10 “He delivered us from such deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”