Lighting up Christmas

xmas-lightsThe true meaning of Christmas should not be about receiving gifts. It should be about giving.

Sure, giving could include gifts, but, even then, it shouldn’t be done with the expectation of receiving a gift in return.

Ideally, the giving should be completely selfless, even void of monetary value.

Giving of your time will have a much larger impact than racking up more and more credit card debit in an attempt to purchase the perfect present.

In thinking about giving, my mind takes me to my grandfather, Roland Vogts. Before he died, he lived in a farmhouse north of Canton, Kansas, with my grandmother Maxine. He always gave of himself, especially when it came to Christmas time.

He was instrumental in Canton’s elaborate Christmas light display of my youth, and he also decorated his home.

Many people put lights up around their house, but Grandpa Roland took it to an entirely different level. He strung thousands upon thousands of lights each year, and he rarely repeated the same configuration from season to season. People would drive from miles around to perform a slow procession past the house and into the roundabout driveway before heading back home. It was magical.

He gave of his time to give joy to others, and it took a significant amount of time.

He sometimes began preparing and hanging lights a couple months in advance, always with the goal of turning on the power shortly after Thanksgiving. The lights he used weren’t the style of today. His were the kind that if one bulb was out, the entire strand went dark. When this would happen, he would meticulously check each bulb until he found the culprit and replaced it.

Grandpa Roland was an artist of illumination. He even hand-crafted decorative pieces — such as a wreaths and angels — which had numerous holes drilled in them so lights could be inserted and the pieces could glow to life.

Grandma Maxine still has a picture of her and grandpa’s house all lit up hanging in her current home. Everytime I visit, I am always drawn to that image. It brings back all sorts of memories and senses of wonder.

I have owned my home for some time, but I haven’t ever got into the spirit of elaborate decorations. My wife is bound and determined to change that this year, and one thing she requested was lights on the house.

Normally I would balk at such a suggestion, as I struggle to see the point in decorating for a holiday only to take it all down as soon as the leftovers are eaten and the trash is picked up from the curb.

However, this year, I didn’t say no. In fact, I embraced the idea. I decided I wanted to try to emulate, even on a much smaller scale, the magic Grandpa Roland created with tiny lightbulbs.

Of course, being a bit of a technophile, I want to put my own twist on it. I’ve long be fascinated with the Christmas light displays that are programmed to music, played via a radio transmitter. I may not create the coolest light display, and the programming may not even work; however, I hope grandpa can look down upon me and be proud.

Not just proud of my Christmas lights, but proud of the fact I am doing something, even something so seemingly insignificant as decorating my house, that is for others to enjoy and doesn’t inherently benefit me.

This Christmas, I hope to give more than I receive, and I hope to be the light in the lives of others.

I hope you will too.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a wonderfully Happy New Year.

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