The Lights of Christmas

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I have been stringing lights inside our house, on the outside of our house, and in the yard. This star hangs from a window in my office at home.

After various attempts at decorating these wheels that sit beside our mailbox, this year I simply wrapped lights on one wheel as if they were the spokes of a wheel without regard to the actual spokes. To my delight when the sun went down that night and the solar lights came on, I was surprised by what looks like a twinkling snowflake.

Last week Ray and I and another couple spent a few days in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. There we enjoyed the lights of Dollywood . . .

. . . and the lightshow that ended with falling artificial snow.

I even rode Dollywood’s 3,990-foot rollercoaster, but I didn’t enjoy the lights then. Except for about three peeks, I kept my eyes closed!

God used two sources of light to announce the birth of Jesus. When the angel of the Lord suddenly stood before the shepherds on the night Jesus was born, “the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Luke 2:9).

God also used light to lead the magi to Jesus. He used the light of a star.

When they saw the star,
they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
Matthew 2:10

Jesus said:

“While I am in the world,
I am the Light of the world.”
John 9:5

Over the centuries, followers of Jesus have begun many light traditions to celebrate His birth. Here are some of them.


This 1917 poster encouraged Americans to join the Red Cross and to put a candle in their windows on Christmas Eve.

In Ireland people remember the needs of Mary and Joseph 2,000 years ago and place candles in their windows. This is a sign of hospitality for travelers who may be passing by.

A French tradition is to place three candles on the dining room table to represent the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The tradition of the advent wreath began in Germany. It involves lighting a purple candle on the first two Sundays before Christmas, a pink candle on the third Sunday, and another purple candle on the fourth Sunday. Many Advent wreaths also include a white candle, called the Christ candle, which is lit on Christmas Day.

Swedes celebrate St. Lucia Day on December 13. Lucia is a Catholic saint remembered for bringing food to Christians hiding in Roman catacombs, wearing a candlelit wreath on her head to light her way. Across Sweden, young and old enjoy Saint Lucia Day parades. One girl dresses in a white dress and wears a wreath of greenery lit with seven candles. Her handmaidens carry a candle and wear similar clothing and a wreath without candles. Star boys wear white clothes and cone-like hats while carrying a star on a stick. Today other children dress as gingerbread men and wear gingerbread costumes.

Before the invention of electric lights, many people decorated Christmas trees with candles. This 1536 etching depicts Martin Luther and his family in Wittenberg around a candlelit Christmas tree.

The picture below is an illustration titled “Christmas Eve.” It decorated the title page of The Stranger’s Gift, published in 1836.

People in New Mexico and West Texas enjoy setting up luminaria at Christmas time.

The Tesoros Trading Company gift shop at dusk on Christmas Eve 2018 in the Old Town district of Santa Fe, the capital city of New Mexico. Photo courtesy of Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive at the Library of Congress.

Many Poles and Russians wait until the first star appears on Christmas Eve to sit down for their Christmas Eve dinner.

An important Christmas tradition in the Philippines is hanging star-shaped Christmas lanterns. The traditional paról is made of bamboo and paper. Once lit with candles or oil lamps, a modern paról is lit with electric lights.


Christians in Iraq celebrate with a bonfire both on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve, families gather for a reading of the Christmas story from the Bible. Children read the passages while the rest of the family holds candles. At the end of the reading, the candles light a bonfire. Everyone sings a psalm while the bonfire burns.


Fireworks displays are a Christmas tradition in Mexico. Shooting fireworks on Christmas Day was a tradition in my father’s family when I was a child.

May all the lights of Christmas remind us that Jesus is the light of the world and that He also called us to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). He also gave us a wonderful promise: If we follow Him we will not walk in darkness. Every day you have the opportunity to be light to your children and to lead them, not in darkness, but in light.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, 
“I am the Light of the world; 
he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, 
but will have the Light of life.”
John 8:12

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