The Nights of Lights at Guido Gardens are now on and will continue through Dec. 31 from 6-9 p.m. each evening. The event is sponsored by Metter Ford.
The Lights have been a tradition in Metter for almost 30 years.
In 1990, after visiting Nashville, TN, to see a large display of Christmas lights and decorations, Michael Guido and his wife Audrey were inspired to create a similar experience for families in the communities surrounding Guido Gardens. They wanted to establish a tradition in Metter that would celebrate the true meaning of the holiday: the Birth of Jesus.
So, the very next year, in 1991, a small but beautiful array of lights was woven in the bushes, along with several small displays scattered near the pathways and streams of the Garden for the very first time.
From this small beginning, each year the lights have grown significantly, along with the addition of many new displays and millions of bright shiny lights. Now, 29 years later, many thousands of visitors, from as far away as Houston, Texas to Wheeling, West Virginia, and, from Erie, Pennsylvania to Miami, Florida, individuals and families make their annual pilgrimage to Metter to enjoy the Nights of Lights.
Mary Guido, the wife of the president of Guido Ministries, Larry, began refurbishing and replacing all of the displays and many of the 3,000 strands of lights that adorn the bushes, trees, gazebo, streams and waterfalls, tea house, administration building, Chapel in the Pines and Conference Center in 2009.
Each year, beginning in August, Mary and her “helpers” examine each strand of lights to be certain it is working properly, replace the burnt-out lights in the displays, and repair any damage to make certain that everything will work properly.
It takes over four months of intensive labor to prepare the lights and displays before placing them in their “special” section of the Garden and arrange the lights on the waterfalls, lamp-posts, bridges, bushes and beds of flowers.
The “Lights” includes Biblical, patriotic and “whimsical” displays with several attractions just for children.
Included in the patriotic displays are a large American flag, the Liberty Bell, a helicopter, the Statue of Liberty and four toy soldiers standing at attention to greet the guests.
Some whimsical figures are bears trying to climb a large pine tree, a huge snowman, squirrels running across a rooftop, frogs leaping, candles burning, hummingbirds hovering over blooming flowers, a child fishing in a boat, flowers and a multicolored peacock proudly looking at the guests as they stroll through the Gardens.
The Biblical scenes include the Ten Commandments, two versions of Noah's Ark - one with the animals climbing up a ramp into a wooden ark and one made of wire and lights with the animals walking on board. Children also enjoy waving at Jonah in the Whale. Many of them try to get in the whale and sit next to Jonah while parents take pictures of them as if joining Jonah on his most unusual journey.
A perennial highlight of the Nights of Lights is a life-size nativity scene with animated figures, which include Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jesus with the adoring shepherds standing nearby. As visitors take in the recreation of the nativity scene, they enjoy a recording by Michael Guido as he shares the story of the Birth of Jesus from the Gospels.
A favorite place of many visitors who come to the Nights of Lights is the Chapel In The Pines, where they view "Seeds From the Sower" on a large screen TV. Many of the older guests fondly recall meeting Dr. Michael Guido in the Chapel where he sat in a corner and prayed with them for their various needs. It is not unusual to see tears of joy flowing down their cheeks as they recall the answers to their prayers offered to God on their behalf by “the Sower.”
As the visitors leave the Chapel they walk past the “Empty Tomb,” which is next to three crosses representing the crucifixion of Jesus. One cross is covered with white lights, another with red lights and another left dark. The cross with red lights represents the blood of Jesus that was shed for our sins, the cross with the white lights represents the thief who came to believe in Jesus and the cross without lights represents the thief who died without recognizing the Lord as his Savior.
Next to the crosses is an authentic replica of “The Carpenter Shop” where Jesus worked with his stepfather Joseph and His brothers. The shop contains tools similar to the ones they used in their craft.
Visitors exit the Gardens through the museum, which contains photos, newspaper articles, awards, artifacts and other items that tell the story of Michael and Audrey and the history of the Ministry.
Each night, students from Guido Bible College talk with visitors about the College and its programs that are training the “Next Generation of Sowers.”
The Nights of Lights is a tremendous project, but everyone at Guido Ministries considers it a labor of love for the Lord and our community that is well worth the effort. There were approximately 15,000 visitors in 2019.