Christmas and tacky lights

Published 3:17 pm Sunday, January 1, 2023

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For me, Christmas used to start with lights – lots of lights. What can I say? I grew up in Virginia Beach, home of the “Tacky Light” tour. At the beach we like to say: “Brighter lights on the outside mean brighter, happier families inside.” If true — our family has been deliriously happy!

Our church, Virginia Beach UMC is right next to the beach Boardwalk and their tacky light tour. You slowly drive through thousands upon thousands of tacky lights surrounded by Christmas music. Beautiful and tacky but beautiful.

One year, I purchased a control box to coordinate my flashing lights with popular Christmas carols. If you came by our house, you would see a cascade of lights blinking merrily in rhythm with the music. Cool! However, many would say, “Tacky! Very Tacky!”

People who know me shake their head, laugh and say, “That’s Larry.” Others, also shake their head and walk away wondering if this preacher needs professional help.

I wondered if they were right until I read about someone who displays over 40,000 lights around his house starting in July. July? In addition he purchased wildly expensive equipment and literally choreographs a show synchronizing the lights to holiday music. Their display attracts thousands of visitors from all over the area who tune their car radios to the same music, drive slowly by and watch the lights dance to the tunes.

“Why do you do go to all this trouble?” Asked the reporter.

I really appreciated his reply: “I love standing outside the house and talking to people. It’s turned into a ministry. People open up and talk about everything.”

Speaking of lights: The Wise Men found the manger by following the light of an unusual star and Jesus himself said to the disciples: “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. (Matthew 5:14-15)

Admittedly, I don’t think the wise men followed 40,000 Christmas lights and I doubt Jesus was thinking about tacky lights when he said, “You are the light of the world.”

Jesus did say that we are called to let our light shine brightly so people can see who we are, what we believe and the amazing God we serve. In the midst of sharing laughs about my tacky lights I often receive an opportunity to talk about my faith in God: Funny but true.

Of course, there are many other ways to be a bright light. Providing presents for a needy family at Christmas. Seeking opportunities to be nicer to others at work. Becoming more involved in your local church. Hosting a Bible study at your house.

We are called by Jesus to be the light of the world. What we do and say makes a difference in people’s lives whether it’s helping someone in need, sharing a laugh or spending time in prayer. 

Speaking of lights, maybe if I start in July of next year, I can display my own tacky light tour. I’ll purchase a new sound board, buy a gigantic manger scene, put a star on the roof – (Groan!)

Rev. Larry E. Davies can be reached at