It was always a joy to be with my grandson, although he was reaching an age where it was not as delightful being with “Grandpa”, it seemed. I had had to go to the store for some aspirin, a preventative dose for my heart, and asked Dylan if he would like to ride along with me. On the way to and from the store there were numerous light displays, it being only a few days before Christmas.
“Wow, just look at those lights! Their glow really helps warm you up on these cold winter nights, don’t they, Dylan?”
“Um, yeah, sure Grandpa.”
“I remember the first time I saw an outdoor light display. I was just a kid, a little younger than you, but, man, it really made an impression. I mean it was just a string of egg-shaped lights fastened to the gutter of a house a couple of doors down from where I lived, but seeing the blazing red, blue, yellow and green glowing globes marching in a row like soldiers – well, I can tell you, it took my breath. They seemed to chase the darkness away for a full quarter of a mile from where they shone. That was back in the mid 1950’s when we didn’t have streetlights or store signs flashing in neon every twenty feet along the road.”
“Right. Hey, can we stop at Dairy Queen for a hot fudge sundae on the way back home, Grandpa?”
Laughing at his unabashed appetite for sweets, I quickly retorted, “Of course. Why did you think I brought you with me, anyway?”
Once we arrived back home, Grandma asked Dylan if he had enjoyed looking at all the Christmas lights along the way. He politely answered in the affirmative, but quietly added, “They’re just Christmas lights. No matter what you do, they always look pretty much the same.”
I was dismayed by the cynicism I heard in my grandson’s voice. I perused the search engine on the computer while Dylan played a video game. In just a short while I had found that for which I searched.
“Dylan, come here a minute, will ya?”
“You remember I was telling you about the first outdoor Christmas lights I saw when I was a boy?” Dylan nodded. “Well, here’s another thing I remembered from my childhood that meant a lot to me and I wanted to share it with you. On the monitor is a speech made by President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the 1957 Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony at the White House. Our country had undergone great national crises not too long before this – the Great depression, World Wars I and II. Listen to some of the things he said:
‘As once again we meet in this annual ceremony, we count ourselves a very fortunate people. In a land at peace, we are gathered about the National Christmas Tree to set its lights aglow with their symbolic message of peace and good will to men.
The custom we now observe brings us together for a few minutes on this one night. But this brief ceremony is warm in a spirit that gives meaning to all our days and all our labors.
For you and I, here, are not alone in a world indifferent and cold. We are part of a numerous company – united in the brotherhood of Christmas. And, as a brotherhood, we remember with special concern, the weak, the helpless, the hungry…
All are united in the renewed hope which we feel at Christmas time, that the world will somehow be a better place for all of us…
The spirit of Christmas helps bridge any differences among us. Faith and hope and charity are its universal countersigns. Peace and good will are its universal message…
Now, as I turn on the lights of our National Christmas Tree, Mrs. Eisenhower joins me in the wish to all of you, our fellow countrymen, that God will keep you and bless you and give you a Merry Christmas.’
See, Dylan, this is the idea of Christmas lights that I grew up with. As I came to know Jesus as my Savior, I also appreciated the fact that the Christmas lights represent Jesus as the light of the world. There’s a lot of good to think about when you see Christmas lights. This is what I wanted to share with you.”
“Wow, Grandpa, you’re like a textbook.”
“And, you are like a marker board.”
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