“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (John 1:1-5, 9 ESV).
It is mid-December probably, 1991. It is a very cold night. My whole family is loaded into our 1986 Dodge Caravan. Though it’s freezing outside, I’m snuggled next to one of my three siblings and, with my warm pajamas, big cozy afghan blanket, boots and winter coat on, I’m pretty warm. My nose and fingers are cold, but I couldn’t care less. You couldn’t take the smile off my face if you tried. All I can smell is that freezing cold Michigan air mixed with the warming scent of hot chocolate. My parents, though probably exhausted from the day, are easily as excited as us four kids who are giggling and thrilled to be out this late. We’re passing around a Tupperware container full of Christmas cookies that mom baked and we all helped decorate. We’re about to drive around town and look at Christmas lights together. It’s a pretty fantastic night.
My dad is a Lutheran pastor and my mother at the time was a homemaker. Money was scarce, but the fun, the laughter, the joy, and the love we all had and felt was in abundance. We couldn’t afford to head to Florida for Christmas vacation, much less to Bronner’s to go shopping. But we could afford some hot chocolate, a few cookies, and a few gallons of gas to drive our family around Saginaw to look at Christmas lights together. I can tell you right now that I wouldn’t trade those memories together in that dirty old van for all the lavish vacations or money in the world. We would drive around together as a family looking at lights numerous times every single year, and I loved it. I loved it so much that I plan on doing the same thing with my wife, Briana, and our two amazingly beautiful kids. I’ll be exhausted to be sure… but I promise you I’ll be more excited than anyone else in the car!
In the Bible reading above, John wrote that the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. He’s talking about Jesus, of course. Jesus, the Light of the world, who loved us so much that He’d rather die for us than be apart from us. He’s talking about Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of our faith. He’s talking about Jesus, whom we fix our eyes on simply because this world can get pretty dark sometimes… but when our eyes are fixed on the Light of the world … things get bright again quickly.
By the time you read this, Christmas will have just ended, but the lights will be up for a while. Before they come down, maybe drive around with a car or van full of loved ones, some hot chocolate, and a few leftover cookies, and fix your eyes not just on the Christmas lights, but on THE Light. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Jesus, the Light of the world … loved us so much that He’d rather die for us than be apart from us.
Father God, we thank you for the countless blessings you give to us. Help us live that thankfulness, not just in this warm and cozy season of Christmas, but every day of every year, as we remember how you sent not just a light but The Light, that we might overcome a dark world through Him. Thank you for the manger, the cross, and the empty tomb. Thank you for Jesus. In His name we pray, Amen.