When I put up Christmas lights this year, I made sure to use the kind of lights that reminded me of what I saw as a kid, driving down neighborhoods oohing and aahing through the back windows of the family car. You know the kind. Big, multi-colored, egg shaped lights.
Every Christmas, dad would drive us four kids through the streets of our small town. They were organized squares where alphabet avenues intersected with numbered streets. The houses close to each other, and during those days, mostly lit in celebration of the season.
When you are a poor kid, just driving around and seeing bright lights in the shapes of reindeer and snowmen is something worthwhile.
I grew up in a single-wide trailer. One long rectangle with only a swamp cooler sitting on to give it some character. Mom didn’t put up lights at Christmas time. Instead, at the center of every window, she sat a single candle. Since then, no matter what house she has lived in, the candles are up at this time of year.
There is beauty in simplicity. There is also beauty in gaudiness. And there is no better time of the year to go a little over the top. To take time to dig through dusty boxes in the garage. To take out your frustration in untangling endless green cords. To realize that each year you need to add something a little more than you had last year.
I like those kinds of houses, the gaudy kind. They are not for me, but they are fun to drive around and see. I’m more the in-between kind. Big lights on the window, but small tree inside. There is one thing that I add to my Christmas decoration collection each year, a nativity scene.
I have big ones and small ones. Some of them light up, and some of them don’t. Though they are all slightly different, in the most important ways, they are the same. They depict a scene of a miraculous night and tell the story that has been retold for generations.
The figurines represent visitors who traveled from a far to bring gifts in adoration. Sometimes there is a camel and a baby lamb. Also, a family. A mother who was chosen because she had found favor with God and an earthly father described as a righteous man. At the center a baby boy who would be called many things, among…