When my wife and I were married, I was still in college and we were pretty poor. There were no streetlights in our neighborhood. I'll never forget when we came back from our honeymoon, on the first night there, when we went to bed Penny turned off all the lights. It was really dark. I said, "Honey, it's dark." She looked at me and agreed, "It is dark." I waited a little while and then said, "Honey, it's real dark." She looked at me and agreed again. Then I said, "It's dark, dark." She said, "Yes, you're going to be a Ph.D. that's good, 'it's dark, dark.'"
After a minute passed she asked, "Are you afraid?" When you're first married you don't want to admit all your neuroses but they're going to come out anyway so you might as well go ahead. So I said, "When I was growing up my mother always left the light on in the bathroom. I could see the light from my room and it gave me a feeling of security and significance because the light was on."
To make a long story longer, Penny let me sleep with the light on. I guess that's why I like Christmas so much. Lights are everywhere. We put them on trees, we decorate our yards, and we put them on top of the houses. Here in New Mexico, we even put candles in bags of sand and call them Luminaries.
A man from Little Rock, Arkansas named Osborn decided to decorate his house for Christmas with lights. It got a little out of hand by the time he was finished — he had put up three million lights. It was spectacular; it was so spectacular that they had to move in extra power lines just to generate enough electricity to run the lights. People came from everywhere to see it, even people from out of state. The lines were so long the neighbors sued Mr. Osborn. It went to the Arkansas State Supreme Court. The judge said, "I think you need to scale it down a little bit." Lights definitely attract. When you ride through your neighborhood you are attracted to the houses with the most lights.
West Virginia folklore carries a tale about a couple that called for a doctor late one night when the wife was ready to deliver a baby. The country physician turned the rustic farmhouse into a makeshift delivery room. The husband was handed a lantern and instructed to hold it up so the doctor could see. After a healthy boy was born the man lowered the lantern. The doctor shouted for this new father to get the lantern up as he delivered another baby — this time a girl. The father was thrown into shock when the doctor once again insisted that the light be held up. He said, "We can't stop now, it looks like there's another one." The shaky father then asked the doctor, "Do you think it's the light that's attracting them?"
Light can be confusing. A teacher asked his class, "Which is more important to us, the moon or the sun?" One of the students answered, "the moon." "Why?" "Because the moon gives us light at night when we need it most. The sun gives us light in the daytime when we don't really need it." He was just a little confused.
Old or young, light can be confusing, but I'm not talking about the sun or the moon; I'm talking about spiritual light. Unfortunately, sometimes we are more afraid of the light than attracted to it. That first Christmas when the light was so bright, the shepherds were afraid. Why are we afraid? Because light exposes who we really are. Do you ever wonder why people say, "Candlelight is so romantic?" Candlelight is romantic because you can't completely see the other person. In candlelight my double chin is not so obvious. Actually, I'm thinking about growing a beard. A beard, you know, can cover a multitude of chins. Our tendency is to hide when we're afraid.
A lady who was late with her rent saw her landlord coming to her door. Thinking he was about to evict her, she turned off all the lights and hid in the darkness until he quit knocking and went away. Later in the week, he passed by her on the street in broad daylight. Unable to hide from him again, he stopped her. He told her that he came by to visit and let her know that a friend of hers had paid her rent. The light of day was not a light of punishment but of pardon.
When God knocks on your door it is not to evict you but to welcome you into His eternal light. Don't hide in the darkness this Christmas. Celebrate the light, the eternal light. Jesus entered our dark world, was born in a manger — not even Motel 6, voluntarily entered the dark room of death but when He left, He left the light on for us.
Charles Lowery is pastor of Hoffmantown Church, Albuquerque, N.M.