Monday, December 30, 2013

An Often Overlooked Message of Christmas Lights

Do Christmas lights also shed light on the designer's personality?
Did you take time out to drive around residential neighborhoods and enjoy the many different Christmas light displays this year? My family doesn't do any kind of thorough light search, but we at least try to drive through a few different neighborhoods a year and enjoy the various displays that families have created. It's enjoyable to see how creative some houses can be and how their displays change over time. My parents remember fondly when big colored bulbs were the only thing used, but my most vivid memories as a kid were of the small colored lights that did all kinds of dancing and flashing. When used 'en mass', these lights gave the impression of a Las Vegas style Christmas display; my favorite as a kid, but something I can't stand now that I am an adult.

I still remember when plain white lights began to replace the garish and over the top colored lights many years ago, and when the white icicle lights replaced those. It now seems that people deploy these lights in any number of combinations, with blow up Christmas characters in tow. I often wonder if the design of each home display might reveal something about the family housed within (or at least the person who put the work into the design). Does a wild and over the top display that uses every kind of light imaginable say something about the family? What about those houses where the manger display is plopped right next to Santa and his reindeer? What about those OCD homes where every light is perfectly straight, only one color is used, and the no impression than "classy" can be perceived? Does the light display at your house say something true about you?

Despite the various messages that might be sent by your light display, there is one message that everyone's display sends: we are a wealthy people. Throughout history, extravagant displays of light and decoration used to be the sole domain of the aristocracy or municipalities and states. Large gardens and displays were sometimes hosted by governments or opened up to the public by wealthy nobles, but rarely would the majority of people have the money to create their own displays. Yet, even a short drive around even some of the poorest of our neighborhoods reveals a large amount of money spent on decoration and displays. In fact, some of the poorer ones seem to spend even more!

OCD or Classy?
Gone are the days when you had to go to the local church to see anything resembling a large Christmas display, you now only have to drive to the end of the street and tune your radio to 87.7 to see and hear a light and sound display that would've delighted the crowds that populated Louis XIV's Palace of Versailles! Nothing that extravagant in your neighborhood? Then head to a nearby mall that's sure to be decked out with a fancy tree, music, and light display. In fact, when you go home after seeing lights to enjoy some Christmas snacks, there is even a good chance that your pantry includes a larger variety of foods, spices, and ingredients than past kings and queens could have ever dreamed of. Turn on your radio (or pandora, or spotify, or itunes, or music cable channels!) and you have a larger variety of Christmas music available to you than John D. Rockefeller ever had in his entire lifetime!

As our society has grown wealthier and wealthier, it is easy to forget those little things that reveal just how much luxury we actually have. Before all the lights are taken down this year, make another drive around your neighborhood and marvel at the wealth and luxury we possess. Whether it's a simple display of white lights or a Las Vegas style extravaganza, it is a reminder of the privileges our society enjoys. Then, when you get home, pray and thank God for the material blessings. If you are really adventurous, end your pray with this question, "God, how can I honor and worship you with these blessings?" Then wait and listen. It might just be the most "Christmasy" thing you can do.

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