I’m not sure of the origin of holiday lights – whether its the star over the stable in Bethlehem, the menorah candles of Hanukkah or some other symbol that reminds us of God’s miracles. This year, as I put up our outdoor lights, I’m wishing the bright glow will be a symbol of cheer and hope: that maybe they’ll bring some light to someone’s dark night.

The holidays can be a tough time for some. I’m feeling nostalgic myself this year as my daughters are grown. I’m remembering Christmases past.

When I was a child, holiday lights were a bigger deal than they are now. My family not only put out lights, but also displayed a huge paper mache snowman which I think my dad made. What can I say? We lived in Southern California. We used to drive up and down the streets of the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles looking at the light displays. The energy crisis in the 1970s put an end to lavish outdoor displays – for awhile.

The outdoor lights are more scattered in my community. When our girls were young, my husband competed with the neighbors to see who could put up the more elaborate light display. Now, the lights I put out are bright but simpler.

Why do we decorate our houses with lights at this time of year? Maybe because it’s our family tradition. Maybe because it’s the darkest time of year with the shortest days. Or maybe it’s because we want to share a little brightness and joy with our neighbors. We want people to walk or drive by our houses. To slow down as they pass. To wonder maybe a little about God’s miracles.