I put up Christmas lights every year. It is a lot of work and sore muscles. I grapple with burned out bulbs and blown fuses, and getting the wiring just right so the circuit breakers do not trip. People ask me why, and the answer is easy — my wife loves it.

She grew up in a modest home where meatless meals were not uncommon, heralding the approach of payday and the bottom of the bank book. But every year, her father put up a few strings of Christmas lights. In the dark evenings of winter and stretched budgets of her childhood, Christmas lights were very reassuring. The bright colors in the cold black night were lights that warmed her heart and made her feel secure. After all, she reasoned in a youthful mind, if her father could still afford to put up Christmas lights, then all will be well. To this day, Christmas lights make my wife feel happy, warm, and secure — reason enough for all the effort.

We spent two decades of our marriage traveling around the world as I was first an Army and then a Foreign Service, officer. During the years of moves to Europe and the Middle East, living in government housing and rental properties in Washington, DC, we never got around to putting up Christmas lights.

That all ended when we moved to Texas. Our first Christmas in our own home, I put up Christmas lights. I started out modestly, but I got into the challenge of being creative and putting more and more strings up. It made my wife happy — reason enough for all the effort.

We moved onto a short street that is nestled between two through streets. Not quite a cul-de-sac, but with the benefits of less traffic without the inconvenience of only one way in and out. When Christmas came around, I built my annual lighted monument to Christmas and my wife. In the dark nights of late November and December, it was almost the only bright spot on a street of well kept, but unlit homes.

Season after season, I put up Christmas lights. What I didn’t realize is that it made my neighbors happy, not just my wife. They liked my lights. It made them feel warm and hopeful in the dreary dark of December. I heard neighborhood kids asking their parents why they didn’t put up lights. One year, due to my travel schedule, I was late getting my lights up, and people asked if something was wrong, why the lights weren’t up yet. The Christmas lights were reaching people beyond my driveway.

As the years wore on, people asked for tips on lighting, borrowed my ladder, and more houses began to light up each year. This year, with the gloomy news on the economy, terrorism, and uncertainty in the world, I noticed that several of my neighbors had their lights up before me. They wanted to see the glow of Christmas lights, the reassurance and brightness, in an otherwise dark and uncertain time.

My wife loves it!
It occurred to me that we all have a light within us — just like Christmas lights — that everyone sees. When we let it shine it reassures others, it makes them happy, and brightens an otherwise dim world. Over time, looking at our light, others decide to light up themselves as well. It is contagious. We can light up others in ways we cannot comprehend as long as we carry God’s light within us and let it shine. In this dark season of short days and long nights, of uncertainty and terror, remember to let your light shine. It makes others happy — reason enough for all the effort.

[Jesus told us] You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16 NASB).