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  • Tim Patterson

Bubble lights

PLYMOUTH – Over the past few weeks, I have been retrieving “Christmas Tubs” from the basement in order that Sabrina may begin her annual and all-consuming ritual of decorating the house for the season. As I bring the Christmas bling up, I am taking the Fall accouterments down. Good thing I got a new hip this year.

I have a newfound knowledge and realization that the Patterson’s possess way too many of the trappings of Christmas. Box after box and container after container came up the stairs with every trip I took. Little ones, big ones, heavy ones and only one light one. All of them were cram-packed full of tinsel, lights, trinkets, bows and more ornaments than most trees could bear.

The accumulations of 49 years of housekeeping are evident because of the inordinate amounts of decorative cheer that are now strategically placed in every corner and nook of our abode.

But when I look past all the trappings and see the joy of the season that all this glitter, gold and lights help illuminate, I find it is well worth the effort.

When it comes to Christmas, I love every minute of it. The sights, smells, crowds, cooking, candy, parties, trees, lights and oh, especially the lights.

Ever since my childhood days in West Texas I have had a long-lasting infatuation with Christmas lights. As you can imagine, the landscape of the barren Texas desert lacked the twinkle of colored lights. For that matter, most of the year it was only one color. BROWN! So, when Christmas came about, color came to my world as well.

Almost every weekend during the Christmas season the Patterson family of my childhood would pile in our 1956 Chevrolet Belair and cruise the streets of our tiny, Texas hamlet. OOOh’s and AHHH’s could be heard floating out the open windows of our sedan as we slowly rolled by house after house in our Gulf Project community. Christmas in color.

Though I loved and thrilled at the exterior decorative lights of those cute little homes, the lights that brought wonder and fascination to my little mind were the miraculous bubble lights that adorned our tree.

Slender, candle-like lights that when illuminated could capture anyone’s attention. They consisted of a long glass tube about 2 inches long that was sealed and filled with a special liquid. A small light was housed within a round base that held the glass tube that resembled a candle and when the light within was electrified and emitted heat, the liquid would boil, creating tiny bubbles. But what really fascinated me was the fact that if you held one of these lights in your hand that it would begin to boil without the heat from the bulb. Magic!

How could this be? Lights that bubbled? Shear wonder!

These little luminary wonders were the creation of the National Outfit Manufacturing Association (NOMA) back in 1946. Their ability to create these recurring bubbles and boil this liquid is really not a miracle, but merely the laws of nature at work. The liquid that is sealed within the glass tubes is methylene chloride, which has a very low boiling point, and when exposed to the heat emitted from the enclosed light, it boils.

And all this time I thought there was something magical and mystical about those lights. Just a little heat and what was inside revealed its nature.

I have noticed that bubble lights have made a big comeback. Oh, not the ones that adorn our trees but the ones that scurry through the hallowed halls of our malls, shopping centers, big-box stores and other retail establishments. Everywhere I look this season I see these large human bubble lights bounding about society. They are mostly bright red in color with some that turn an intense blue, depending on their emotional state. Others are green in an envious sort of way while others have turned white or a pale yellow because of the sick feeling they have in their stomachs because of their overspending.

I heard that some of these human bubble lights have begun to boil and bubble so much that they have gotten into fistfights with one another. YouTube is filled with these Yule Tide tantrums. Now that’s the Christmas spirit!

The reason these human bubble lights reach the boiling point so quickly and easily is the very same reason the bubble lights on our trees do so. It is what is inside. If we are filled with envy, greed, hate, frustration, anger and just a downright “grinchiness”, then when we are exposed to the slightest amount of friction, we will boil.

The heat of life has a way of revealing the true contents of our hearts. None of us are immune from the friction we encounter when we rub family, friends and fellow societal inhabitants the wrong way. Bubble lights have a place in our lives and when in their proper place they bring beauty and wonder. They should adorn our trees, hearths and homes but not our hearts. This Christmas may we all be filled with the true Spirit of the season.The Spirit of Peace on Earth and Good Will to all Men.

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

I wanted to share one of my BAD DAD HOLIDAY JOKES. You can begin groaning now.

This guy goes into his dentist's office, because something is wrong with his mouth. After a brief examination, the dentist exclaims, "Holy Smoke! That plate I installed in your mouth about six months ago has nearly completely corroded! What on earth have you been eating?" "Well... the only thing I can think of is this... my wife made me some asparagus about four months ago with this stuff on it... Hollandaise sauce she called it... and doctor, I'm talking DELICIOUS! I've never tasted anything like it, and ever since then I've been putting it on everything... meat, fish, toast, vegetables... you name it!"

"That's probably it," replied the dentist. "Hollandaise sauce is made with lemon juice, which is acidic and highly corrosive. It seems as though I'll have to install a new plate made out of chrome this time."

"Why chrome?" the man asked.

"Well, everyone knows that there's no plate like chrome for the Hollandaise!"

Sorry about that! But I do pray that this Holiday Season your home is filled with love, wonder and the Grace of God's most precious gift.



Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.


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