Bill talks about why Christmas lights are needed now more than ever and takes us on a tour of some especially well-lit neighborhood homes.

Christmas Lights

Hi friends, my name is Bill Evertsberg and I’m one of the ministers at Kenilworth Union Church, and this is Doogie, my assistant minister.

I’m filming this on December 7 and the latest issue of Time magazine just arrived. This is the cover story of the December 7 issue of Time. It says “2020: The Worst Year Ever.” I’m filming this on December 7, I’m sort of glad there are only 24 days left in this dreadful year. It has kind of been a hard year, and yet there’s one way in which 2020 has been kind of a good year, and that’s in the way of Christmas lights.

This autumn, and this winter, we Americans, we and our neighbors decided that when it came to Christmas lights, we had to go early and we had to go big. And so the Christmas lights came out just after Halloween, and when they came out, they came out big. I’ve seen all of these large, lavish, lovely displays that I’ve never seen before. I’m going to show you a couple of examples in a minute.

We all decided that we just need more beauty and boldness and brightness this year to kind of mute the shadows and the shades. And this includes, you can see, this includes Kenilworth Union Church. This year, for the first time John Sharp had our landscaper drape the bushes in our Memorial Garden with these Christmas lights, and we did this, John and I, because we thought in this difficult year, we need more beauty and brightness.

And so I hope you’ll have a chance to walk the dog past here. As you can see, dogs are welcome in the Memorial Garden. Or drive your car down here and park it for a moment on Kenilworth Avenue. Take a stroll through the middle of this beautiful light show.

You’ve probably noticed all your life that Christmas lights are not garish and obtrusive, they’re not klieg lights or stage lights or spotlights. They’re smaller and subtler and less pretentious. They twinkle. And this is because Christmas lights are meant to mimic the stars that puncture modest pinholes into the Stygian dome of the night sky. Stars don’t eliminate the darkness of the night sky, but they do make it porous and permeable and less threatening.

So stars are here to remind us that it might be dark right now, but the sun’s not far away. It will return with the dawn. And the Christmas lights are here to remind us that it might be dark outside, but Christ, the light of the world, is not far away.

When the church was young, when the Christian church was young, it had negligible interest in Jesus’ origins. Ironically, when the Christian church was a baby, it had very little interest in baby Jesus. It just didn’t ask many questions about where Jesus came from. It was so busy thinking about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that it didn’t have much energy left over to ask where he came from.

But this all changed in the fourth century, and when it changed, when the church did start celebrating CHRIST-mas, Christ’s mass, Christmas, it did so very intentionally and very deliberately on December 25, the fourth shortest day of the year. It was as if the church were saying, “Yeah, we know. It’s been dark for a long time. The days have been getting shorter and the nights longer since June-freaking-21, but now things have turned around. Now things are changing. And now, for the next six months, there will be more light and life in our lives, the days will get longer, and the nights will get shorter.”

And the Christ child, these Christmas lights, are just not far away from us, no matter how dark our night is in the worst year of them all, 2020. So I thought that this house really brightens up the church’s neighborhood.

This is the Victorian house directly across the street from the church manse on Warwick Avenue. And this is the first time it’s looked like this, all bright and dressed up for the holidays. And it’s particularly appropriate that this is one of those classic Kenilworth Victorian homes because it was during Victoria’s reign in Great Britain that the Christmas tree, for instance, took off in popularity. She was married to the German Prince Albert. Prince Albert, the prince consort, was the one who made Christmas trees popular, first in England, and then in the United States. So this is pretty cool.

So I thought this rainbow Christmas tree was kind of beautiful and enlivened the neighborhood. This is just a couple of blocks from the high school, therefore 4 or 5 blocks from the church. And so thank you to these folks for making our lives brighter.

And now here we are, this is a house right across the street from my house, the manse on Asbury Avenue, and my photographer Matt and I decided that this tree’s got to be sixty feet tall. Last week, you should have seen the piece of equipment, the lift, that got the workers to the top of this tree to put those lights up there. And I walked past my neighbor here the other day and thanked him for making the neighborhood so much happier.

Did you know that Christmas lights can lower your blood pressure and slow your pulse and make you a healthier person? It’s also true, they say, that if you have Christmas lights out in front of your house, people think you’re more affable. You’re more friendly. So, and that’s very true of my neighbor here. So I want to thank him for making me a happier person.