Your Inner Clark Griswold
““You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14–16 NIV)
One of the main things I enjoy about the Christmas season is looking at Christmas lights. I even love the neighbors that take it way overboard and litter their yard with every outdoor inflatable from Wal-Mart. Decorating your house with lights, both inside and out, has become over the years a distinctly Christian tradition. But many people do not understand the significance of partaking in this creative act during the dreariest months of the year. What we are doing is symbolically partaking in what God has done from the very beginning: separating the light from darkness. In fact, Genesis 1 says that this was God’s first act as Creator. “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:3–4 NIV)
While many people, even non-Christians, enjoy lights during this time of year, you get the other side of hanging Christmas lights that no one enjoys. For one, It costs money, time and energy. On top of that, it is a personal risk to your own health. If you don’t believe me, just ask my uncle who broke both elbows when he fell off a ladder hanging lights one year. When you add those two variables to the fact that they’re only up for a total of 5 weeks (unless you’re the obnoxious one that hangs them up on November 1st), many people make the practical decision, “We’re just not going to do lights this year.”
A perfect example of this happened a few weeks ago when I was on my roof hanging our lights and one strand slid off of the roof onto my front yard. I had already almost broken my neck about three times (it runs in our family), and I was not excited to have to crawl back down to get them. Just then, one of my neighbors went walking by with his dog. He started a conversation with me about how he admired me for hanging lights. He said that I am much more motivated then he is. I ended up asking the guy if he minded helping me by tossing me the lights that just fell. He helped me out and began walking away. Just as he got to the street he paused and said, “You know, I really enjoy looking at Christmas lights, but I’m just too lazy to put them up myself.”
As I finished putting up my lights, this sentence hung with me for the rest of the time I was on my roof. I began to think about our approach as Christians to the life of faith, and I think this man’s words are an appropriate metaphor for us today. We love observing others with great faith. We love hearing stories from public speaker named Tiny that had a radical conversion to Christ in jail and lives it out daily now, but we don’t feel that transformation ourselves. We love the great apologists that valiantly defend our faith, but we don’t enter into those conversations at work or with family. We love knowing there is someone out there that has conquered addiction and sin in his or her own lives, while we continue to wallow in the mire of our own. We love to hear the stories of faith and courage when people face great personal difficulty, yet we doubt we could ever have such assurance.
To me, this all goes back to my neighbor’s honest statement: we’re just too lazy to cultivate the light inside of us. Ephesians 3:19 says that God’s desire is that we would be filled with the fullness of Him. And while Scripture is clear that Jesus is the light of the world, Jesus turns the tables on us as his disciples in Matthew 5 and says that we are to be the light of the world. So my hope for you this Christmas season is that you would do more than just admire beautiful lights around you, but that your own radiance would contribute to the eternal festival of lights. Or to put it in plainer terms: go discover your inner Clark Griswold.