Lighting can make all the difference in any environment. Through its intensity and tonality, light helps us to understand space, and it influences how we see and relate to our environment. Moreover, light is a tool that helps us evoke and promote different sensations. Light gives character to a place and contributes to its identification.
Light undoubtedly influences our perception of the world. Light is a source of energy for every living being. Sunlight is important for our physical and mental health, while artificial lighting is indispensable in our homes.
Light also has significant cultural and religious meaning. During this season leading up to Christmas, the main streets of towns and cities are decorated with spectacular lighting. Also throughout these weeks, various types of special lighting will flood our living rooms, porches, shopping centers, and the facades of our homes and workplaces. In each space, the play of light and shadow attracts our eyes and inspires us.
But what kind of light is strong enough to penetrate our egoism? What kind of light can give true life to those around us? What kind of light is capable of illuminating and guiding those who walk in darkness?
The light of Advent
We are celebrating Advent, a special time that leads up to Christmas. It’s a time that invites us to hope, a time of celebrating the true Light that came into the world. We are called to be light that gives life to those around us.
Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by—people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way. (Benedict XVI)
With this phrase from Spe Salvi, Benedict XVI helps us to understand that the light with which we should shine is not ours, but comes from Another. Therefore, we must be “exposed” to the Light, so that we may absorb it and transmit it to others.
The more we are filled with the Light, the easier it will be for us to say with St. Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatian 2:20)
Meditate on the light of Christ during Advent
A well-lit environment captures, attracts, and penetrates our attention without us noticing. Therefore, especially during Advent, we must allow God’s grace to transform us into something different and attractive, so that we become dwelling-places of Christ.
So transformed, we can be a means through which anyone can intuitively discover a new way of life, something that will recharge their day-to-day life with hope, purpose and dignity. If we allow ourselves to be enlightened by God, the people around us will be able to encounter the One who answers the deepest needs of the human heart.
In short, we have to be “light-filled homes” ourselves. There are many ways in which we can achieve this, both on an “interior” and “exterior” level.
How to be filled with light
On an inner level, in our hearts, we and our families should cultivate the desire to be good company for those around us. We have to strive to provide more compassionate and patient, being more attentive to the deeper needs of our family members and neighbors.
God becomes a child to be like us, in order to make us like Him. We must open the doors of our hearts so that His light may enter and act in us. In this way we can live more intensely and consciously.
On an exterior level, the first signs of the Lord’s arrival are “the crib and the tree” which “therefore bring a message of light, of hope and of love,” Pope Francis said in 2014.
Many families choose to display a Nativity scene and a Christmas tree along with other decorations in and around their houses. These adornments help us to proclaim our faith in the great mystery we are preparing to celebrate. They also call us to reflect on what a special time of year it is.
Decorating with Christmas lights
During Advent and the Christmas season (which, it is worth pointing out, doesn’t end on the day after Christmas), Christmas lights can be the lead characters of the decorations throughout the house.
Today, fortunately, we have many lighting options: garlands, lighted figures, luminous stars, light curtains, candles… This lighting can lend special prominence and atmosphere to our centerpieces, windows, railings, and facades. We can also make or buy an Advent wreath and place it in a visible place in the house.
An effective decorating technique can be to create little “vignettes” in different parts of the house using Christmas decorations, flowers or branches, and points of light such as candles or luminous figures. We can play with different shapes, textures and sizes, creating an inspiring display on a sideboard, a window sill or a corner table.
Let’s not forget, however, that the light of the Lord is what matters most, and it lasts forever, even after we take down our Christmas decorations:
The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun shall no more go down, or your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light. (Isaiah 60:19)
It’s our job to shine the Light of Christ into the world’s dark night. Will you take up the challenge with us?
Preparing for the light of Christmas in the darkness of Advent