I have loved Christmas lights from the time I was a small boy. Whether they were on my family’s Christmas tree at home, or adorning various houses on the drive home from my grandparents’ house, it was always a thrill to see Christmas lights. Sometimes my Dad would take the long way home just so we could see more Christmas lights.

Back in the late fifties we always had real a Christmas tree with those big, colorful, tear-shaped lights, the same kind you see on Ralphie’s Christmas tree in A Christmas Story. Then sometime in the 1960s Mom got tired of cleaning up pine needles and we got an artificial tree. For a while we used the old lights, but by the 1970s we had changed to the smaller, brighter lights shaped like tiny eyedroppers.

And the artificial trees were different in another crucial respect: the branches didn’t go all the way to the ground. (I guess that was to make room for more presents…?) That key difference made it possible to do something my brothers and I had never done before: we could lay under the tree and look up at the lights through the branches…at least until the presents crowded us out. I always thought it was especially beautiful, seeing the lights that way. Even as an adult from time to time I have laid down with my head under the tree to see the lights (when no one was looking).

We tried switching to the new LED Christmas lights. The fact that they last so long is especially appealing to me now that I’m the guy that puts the lights on the tree, and I’m the one that has to deal with the headache of figuring out why half a strand of lights won’t work. I thought the LED lights were great, and loved the vivid colors. But my wife thought they were harsh and said they hurt her eyes. So, because I like being married, we switched back. I have to admit those “eyedropper” lights do look really good.

I’m usually the last one up at our house, and at Christmas time, after I’ve checked all the locks and turned off all the lights, I always save the Christmas tree for last. I spend a few moments there in the mostly dark house, staring at our brilliantly lit tree. And I have an advantage that comes from a defect in my eyesight. I have 20-400 vision without my glasses. (That’s right. So, when I take off my glasses while I’m preaching, it’s because I don’t want to look at you.) Without my glasses, everything looks pretty fuzzy, and when I look at our Christmas tree, all the lights kind of smear together in colorful, overlapping haloes of light. It’s really beautiful, like some impressionistic painting of a Christmas tree come to life. (Think Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night, only with a Christmas tree.)

 To tell the truth, I’ve always been a little puzzled, even slightly embarrassed, about my fascination with Christmas lights, especially as an adult. When our kids were small I loved to take them around to see the Christmas lights, and our son always helped me put the lights on our tree. Now that they’re grown I use the excuse of taking my grandsons to out see the Christmas lights in the park, and around the neighborhood. I guess when they outgrow it I’ll just have to drive around by myself.

But I had an epiphany the other night. I was standing in our dark living room, looking at our tree lights without my glasses, and I realized something. What I really want to see is glory.

Glory is one of those words I have always sort of skimmed over in the Bible. The Bible tells us about “the glory of the LORD.” Exodus 24:16 says, “The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai…”. When Moses went through a particularly hard time, he asked God, “Please show me your glory.” (Exodus 33:18) After they finished constructing the tabernacle (their portable worship center), Moses wasn’t able to enter it at first because “the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:35). The same thing happened centuries later when King Solomon had the temple built (1 Chronicles 7:2). After centuries of Israel turning away from the Lord, Ezekiel had a vision of God’s glory (i.e., His presence) departing from Jerusalem. (Ezekiel 11:23) Later Ezekiel had a vision of God’s glory coming back into the temple (Ezekiel 43:4), and God promised, “And I will set my glory among the nations…” (Ezekiel 39:21).

The birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was announced to some very terrified shepherds when “an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.” (Luke 2:9). There is something literally unearthly about the light of heaven.

In Jesus of Nazareth the presence of God was manifested to us in human form. John wrote, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) And the disciples Peter, James and John got to see Jesus’ glory in an unexpected and overwhelming way: “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.” (Matthew 17:2)

Not many years after Jesus was crucified, Saul of Tarsus was on his way to Damascus to continue his campaign to ravage the church and destroy Christianity. Suddenly he was overwhelmed by a light from heaven that caused him to fall from his horse (Acts 9:3; 22:6; 26:13). Saul encountered the risen Lord Jesus in all His glory, and it transformed his life and changed the course of history. Saul of Tarsus became Paul the apostle of Christ, and it was because he saw Jesus’ glory.

The last book of the Bible begins with the Apostle John’s vision of Jesus in all His glory. (Revelation 1:12-16) And before it was over, John saw the New Heaven, the New Earth, and the New Jerusalem. He described the heavenly city where God will at last dwell with His redeemed people like this:

“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”

Revelation 21:22-23

I’ve read those verses and many others, over and over again, for years. But my mind just skimmed over them. In one way, it’s understandable. When our earthly minds try to comprehend God’s heavenly glory, it’s no wonder our brains tend to shut down. In this world God gives us enough of a foretaste of Heaven to make us want to go there…and enough of a preview of hell to make us want to not go there. So why is it that we are so fascinated with sunrises, and sunsets, and sunbeams though the clouds, and a ring of fire around the moon during a total eclipse of the sun? I believe it’s because we’re longing to see God’s glory, whether we realize it or not.

And I think that’s why we love fireworks, and pyrotechnic stage shows, and CGI special effects in movies, and even something as mundane as colored lights on a Christmas tree. We’re longing to see God’s glory. If we’re His, we’re yearning for our Home with Him.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones was one of the 20th century’s finest preachers, pastoring London’s Westminster Chapel for almost 30 years. At the end of his life, only a day or two before he died, he told his family, “Don’t pray for healing. Don’t hold me back from the glory!”

So, think of that when you see some Christmas lights, or when look at your Christmas tree. Take your glasses off, and take it all in. If you can manage it, maybe even lay under the tree, and look up at the lights.

And imagine the Glory.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Pastor David