Monday, December 14, 2015

Merry and Bright....

Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12
Our Christmas celebrations are awash in light, from simple paper bags and candles stuck in sand to the kind of Brobdingnagian displays of illuminated, animated, and inflated nylon characters that elicit gasps of amazement and delight from children of all ages. The world indeed seems a better place when every street is bathed in LED or fairy lights and the smallest Main Street bears a star or wreath on every lamp standard.
All this light is a pretty recent development.  When our kids were young, they counted the first Christmas light displays they saw on our trip home after Thanksgiving, losing track after a while and quarreling about the tally. That was the '80s and folks were celebrating the end of the long dark Scrooge like malaise that frowned on energy consumption of a celebratory and frivolous nature.  Personal displays of happy strings of multi colored mini lights popped up after Thanksgiving like mushrooms after a rain.
The mini lights were inexpensive and easy to hang; even people living miles from nowhere, like us, enjoyed the luxury of a bright and welcoming homecoming in the deep dark of winter.

The Christmas lights of my childhood were not tiny and twinkly; they were heavy, hot and temperamental.  Hanging the ornaments on the tree was preceded by that hold your breath moment when the light strand was plugged in....which was followed by a systematic dismantling of each strand searching for the bad connection or broken bulb. The combination of incandescent bulbs and red cedar could be a fiery one.  We watered our fresh tree diligently and followed the lead of our German forebears, lighting it but briefly.
These instances were magical.  The cardboard village with sponge and bottle brush landscaping and cellophane windows glowed like a campfire; the town church with its tilted and Scotch taped steeple; the blown glass ornaments glittered with stained glass hues; the only sound the rattling tin fins of the spinner ornaments fueled by the warmth of the light bulbs.
Each year, my sister and I would choose our favorite little houses under the tree. The subdivision we lived in was barren, flat, and treeless, but the homes in this village were quaint, stuccoed, with trellises and fireplace chimneys.  
They reminded me of the homes on Greenberry Road in Jefferson City, Missouri, where my parents grew up and my grandparents lived.

In my childish experience, Greenberry Road had the very best Christmas decorations and lights of anywhere.  Entire homes were hung with lights; one house sported a lighted old fashioned sleigh, and one spotlighted Santa Claus standing way up above the second floor by the chimney.

In December, Dixon Drive became Christmas Card Lane, where the front yard of every ranch house was devoted to giant greeting cards and Christmas lights. (And still is, by the way.)
But the very best display, the one looked for every time we drove down the street, was in front of an enormous Spanish Revival home replete with tile and Moorish arches. There was the Christmas stable with the entire Nativity assembled inside and around it.  Mary and Joseph knelt over the Baby's manger bed while shepherds kept watch and the angel seemed to hover above.  There were at least a dozen sheep scattered as if the shepherds were so busy worshiping that they lost track of their flock.  The Wise Men, perched on the backs of full sized camels, approached from the edge of the lights...perhaps it was even from the East? It was a stupendous achievement and has been bright in my memory all these years.  Every creche', every Live Nativity tableau, every Star hung on a roof, or a grain bin, or mysteriously shining above the trees from an old windmill tower wordlessly expresses the truth of the Christmas season:

"And the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
John 1:5

Let your Christmas lights shine....

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