The Lights of Christmas

By Cliff Gorski
Executive Editor
The Catholic Accent

Throughout history, “light” has symbolized goodness, kindness and salvation. It is during Advent that we become keenly aware that our daylight hours are shorter. We know that with the celebration of the birth of our Savior, the light of Christ will enter our lives to dispel the darkness in our world.

It was the light from the Epiphany star the guided the three Wise Men to the manger where the baby Jesus lay. It is that light that continues to provide the radiance of hope for all humanity.

When preparing for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, many use light to provide warmth and peace in the home. Tradition says that a type of luminaria, a lantern consisting of a votive candle set in a small paper bag weighted with sand, lit the way for Mary and Joseph in their search for lodging during their journey to Bethlehem.

Father Michael J. Crookston, Pastor of St. Sebastian Parish, Belle Vernon, and The Epiphany of Our Lord Parish, Monessen, says  luminaria are used at Christmas for several reasons.

“When people light the luminaria, a lot of times, they light in memory of someone who has died in their life, parents, their grandparents,” Father Crookston says. “It brings those people back to them as the light is burning, reminding them of Christmases past, celebrations in the past, bringing those people present to them in their minds and in their hearts.”

Father Crookston says the light gives us direction as a guiding star for our lives.

He thinks back to his own grandmother and how the family celebrated the light of Christ at Christmas.
“She always mentioned they didn’t have electricity, so illumination  was by candle or oil lamp. Whenever they would decorate their Christmas tree, they would bring in a sapling from out in the woods. They would wrap that sapling in cotton on the ends of the limbs, and they would put candles all over the tree,” he recalls. “The glow of that light made it almost a holy thing, and they felt peace from the  warmth of the candles.”

Father Crookston says thinking about the light in our lives can be difficult because, unlike centuries ago, today we are surrounded by light.

“When you think about total darkness, one tiny candle can bring so much light, hope and goodness,” he says.

Father Crookston says the lights of Christmas should signal to all of us that something special is about to happen.

“Lights bring a feeling of excitement,” he says. “Many people recognize why they are decorating and why they are putting so much preparation into the celebration of Christmas, just as they did when people were living in darkness.

“Light is a symbol of Christmas because Christmas is the ultimate gift of hope from God.”


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