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Remembering the true light of Christmas

One of my highlights each Christmas is putting up the tree and trimming it out with lights and decorations.

We start at the bottom and wind our way upwards finishing it off with the angel at the top. Then the drum rolls for the big test -- plugging it in.

When it all works and the tree lights up, it is a beautiful sight. Often, I will sit in the living room with just the tree lights on gazing at their beauty. The tradition of Christmas lights goes back hundreds of years.

Have you ever heard of the word "Weihnachtspyramide"? I cannot pronounce it, but it is the German word for "Christmas pyramid."

In the late Middle Ages, the people in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) of Germany set up a wooden pyramid in their homes at Christmas time. It was decorated with many things, then lit up with candles. As time moved on, the pyramid merged with the evergreen tree to become the modern Christmas tree. Today, the majority of people see Christmas lights as simple decoration -- absent the history of where the tradition came from. Why did these early Germans put candles on their pyramids? They did it to teach their families about the real meaning of Christmas -- to celebrate Jesus' birth as the light of the world.

During the time of Jesus' birth (4 to 8 B.C.), the world was dark, filled with much evil. Hope was scarce.

Then, in the midst of it all, a great light came from the heavens where God sent his only son to earth. Then he hung a bright star in the sky above his birthplace, announcing to the world hope had come.

Jesus once said of himself, "I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness." (John 12:46)

From Jesus' birth, death, burial and resurrection, his light never dimmed, shining brightly always. To some, his light was praised -- it guided them out of darkness into a living hope. To others, his light was offensive -- exposing their evil deeds and corrupt ways.

The greatest gifts you can give this Christmas season are twofold. First, give yourself wholly to Jesus, letting his light dwell in you. Second, give yourself to others letting them see the light of Christ within you. This Christmas, may the light of the world be your hope for today.

Clint Decker is president and evangelist with Clay Center-based Great Awakenings. cdecker@greatawakenings.org