Why your church should hang Christmas lights this year

November 21st, 2022

It’s that time of year again! The leaves are changing, temperatures are dropping, snow is falling, and festive Christmas lights are appearing on houses and trees across towns and cities.

Yet churches often remain darkened in this joyous season of light.

Why is that?

Christmas is the most widely recognized Christian holiday of all. Many who are nominally Christian celebrate it. People who will never come to your church celebrate it. Even persons of different faiths often celebrate Christmas in some way.

While many churches will decorate their interiors with candles, greens, and banners—most people will never know. They won’t see the inside of your sanctuary—not your poinsettias nor your Chrismon trees. They won’t see the glorious beauty you have prepared inside your church. They’ll only see the outside of your building. Without the visible presence of lights you miss the opportunity to share the joy of the season with passersby (maybe with your community).

It may seem simplistic, but hanging lights is not about putting up decorations. Outdoor Christmas lights signal that your church is celebrating too. That’s too important a message to skip or assume that others already know.

This year I’m suggesting you go along with the culture and festoon your building with lights. Or at least the part of your building that is easy to reach.

Here are the top three reasons why your church should hang Christmas lights this year, and why it’s worth the time and effort to do so.

Reason #1: Lights show the beauty inside your church to the world outside

There is nothing so special as a church sanctuary on Christmas Eve. I love seeing the Christmas decorations, how the hanging of the greens makes it all possible, and then standing back to admire the beauty and wonder of the season. Why leave that beauty behind the locked doors of our churches?

Historically, a light in the window said to the stranger passing by, “You are welcome here,” a welcomed message as the stranger sought food and shelter on their journey. Christmas lights on the outside of the church, reflecting the birth of Christ, conveys the modern-day version of this message: “All are welcome here.” And to show that all really means all, you might want to add a colorful rainbow flag, or a symbol that tells those who feel excluded  that “all” really means everyone. That’s the good news sorely needed in today’s world.

Reason #2: Lights celebrate the deep meaning of Christmas 

The Christmas season, as you already know, is more than trees and gifts, bells and parties. While each aspect of the season has significance, none has more than the lights. As we reflect on the birth of Jesus and what that means for us today, we are drawn to the inbreaking of light, that gives birth to hope, followed by joy.

“But we have a Nativity scene,” you say. “Isn’t that better than lights?” For some people in your churches and communities, a Nativity scene brings to mind the humble story of Christmas. Others, however, may not even know what the word Nativity means, or the significance of the tableau. The introduction of Christmas lights invites people into the story. “Come and see, this child born in Bethlehem!” Suddenly the nativity becomes personal. The darkness fades and the light of God’s unconditional love shines.

Reason #3: Lights are missional

During Halloween, trick-or-treaters count on outward signs to know if they should ring the doorbell. Lights, decorations, and the like communicate, “Stop by our house. We are here, and we have candy for you.” The same can be said for Christmas lights. Putting up lights is a way of sharing the love and joy of the season with everyone that comes by, whether they are coming to our home or driving by on their way home. The lights may become a topic of conversation, a great way to share what Christmas means to you and the impact the birth of Christ child has on your daily life.

This year

Too often, churches can be seen as places that are closed off from the community, open for business one, maybe two, days a week. Imagine the talk in the town when your church is lit up at Christmas!  Who knows what could happen. One day you’re turning on the lights, the next talking with someone who is spending their first Christmas without a loved one. When it’s cold outside, you have hot chocolate, Christmas goodies, and you hear the stories of the community. You hear needs and concerns, build relationships and suddenly you’re helping children with their homework, growing a community garden, and the miracles go on.

And it all started with Christmas lights.

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