By Cheryl Magness
In the town we used to live in there was a house I passed almost daily in my travels, sometimes multiple times. It was located about halfway between my own house and my church. Its position, backing up to a greenway next to my regular route, meant that I had a good view of the back of the house rather than the front.
For about 10 Christmases in a row, as I drove that route back and forth, this house was lavishly decorated. And the decorations were of the sort that I actually like--not those big plastic/inflatable monstrosities, just lots and lots of lights in many colors. It's unusual to see the back of a house decorated so extensively, but no doubt the owners realized that more people saw the back of their house than the front. So year after year they kindly provided those who were driving by with quite an impressive display.
Then there was a year that Christmas came and went, but the lights never went up. I assumed that the house had changed hands and that the new owners weren't continuing the tradition. Too bad, I thought. I will miss that daily dose of holiday cheer.
But lo and behold, the following year the decorations were back! And they were identical to those I had seen on the house for years, leaving me to conclude that the house did not change owners after all (although I suppose it is possible the previous owner left the light display behind). Which left me to wonder:
What happened? Why were there no lights that one year?
The possibilities were endless. Was there an extended illness? Cancer, maybe? Chemotherapy treatments? Was there a job loss? Was there a serious injury, a divorce or a death? Perhaps there was a military deployment.
Maybe there was a joyous event, like the birth of a new baby.
Or maybe they were just tired.
There is no way of knowing, but my gut told me there was a story there. And today as I think about how many houses I drive by every day, some with Christmas decorations, some without, I can't begin to imagine the complicated stories playing out in each of them. It boggles my mind to think of how many people there are in this world and of the various trials they are facing. Really, it's a wonder any lights get hung at all!
But thanks be to God that there is a Light that doesn't need any of us to hang it up, plug it in, or turn it on. It is the Light of Christ, the Light that shoots like a laser through the darkest darkness, the Light that shines no matter the season, the Light that had no beginning and has no end. It is the Light we await this Advent, the Light that became flesh and entered our time-space continuum a little over two thousand years ago, the Light that suffered, died and rose, ascended into heaven, and promises to come again. It is the Star of Bethlehem, the radiant beams from the face of the Holy Child, the Light that shines from the throne of God and wraps itself with perfect love around His saints.
Whether or not you hang lights on your house this year, next year, or ever, may you bask in the Light of Him who is Light, as that Light shines to you and through you for all to see.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” - John 1:5
Cheryl is the sister of ten, daughter of two, mother of three, and wife of one. She was an English teacher in a past life but these days freelances as a writer and musician. She blogs at A Round Unvarnish'd Tale and has also been published by The Federalist, American Thinker, OnFaith, and Touchstone magazine. Cheryl lives in Oklahoma with her husband, a Lutheran cantor, and their three children.