Christmas Lights

By Amy A.

I’m not an event person. I like parties, but in moderation, kind of spread out. Crowds don’t make me nervous… just tired. And I like presents well enough, I guess, but gift-giving as a love language? Greek to me.

Per the season, we decorated our wall decal tree.

That said, I have never in my life been so passionate about celebrating Christmas in every single little way possible as I am this year. Never have I had so much anticipation for a dinky Christmas party as I have for the one we’ll hold at Devlin #20 this week. And never has a Christmas tree meant so much to me as did the ones I helped distribute a few weeks ago to some of our friends in the Devlin neighborhood.

Yes, we got people Christmas trees for Christmas. Not because Christmas trees give you some kind of a magical connection with God. Not to prove that we’re cool and liberal because we’re okay with Christmas trees. And it certainly wasn’t because we feel bad for people and wanted to do something Christmas-y and charitable-ish to make ourselves feel better and more Christian-like. It’s actually kind of hard to explain why, and that fact is Exhibit A in my case that this idea was inspired by the Holy Spirit.

The idea came to John, better known around these parts as Boston John, who oversees my church’s work in Devlin, including, of course, the PEACE Program. He kept telling us, “It’s nawt aboat the trees. It’s aboat havin’ the light o’ Gawd in people’s hoases. So whenevah they see that tree, they’ll remembah that Gawd loves thum. That we love ’em.”

I was raised in the light, surrounded constantly by reminders of God’s love for me and the love of my family and friends. I thought love was normal. I reciprocated it freely. From that secure place, the gifting of a little girl to make things beautiful—to sing, to dance, to dress up, to try to do grown-up things like cooking and cleaning and caring for babies—began to bud and blossom. This too, I thought, was normal.

But it’s not. Most people don’t know how Jesus loves them. I thought it was just some people before I stepped out from the warmth of my childhood garden, but it’s actually most people. I knew before that nobody is perfect, but actually, the truth is that most people are very, very messed up. It’s just what living without the light of God’s love does to us. It’s that plain, simple, and sad.

It’s okay, though; there is good news. His name is Jesus, and He came to fix us. He is the true Light that came into world to give life to everybody. Father sent Him, because He loved the world that much. That Light, this Jesus, is still shining, overcoming darkness. Darkness does not understand it.

Just like Bethlehem didn’t understand the poor little family from out of town who arrived too late to get a hotel room, the carpenter who would barely touch his bride, the young girl about to give birth to the Son of God. Didn’t understand what was happening out in the barn when a group of shepherds came bouncing into the village talking some craziness about heavenly hosts and swaddling cloths, when they knelt, weeping, in front of a newborn lying in a feeding trough. Like we don’t fully understand or know how to communicate all that God is doing by sending us to a little neighborhood in the little town of Kirksville and telling us to give people Christmas trees for Christmas.

Oh, but He surely is doing things. I can see the small miracles every day, as if they’re little bitty Christmas lights, strung about my life the way lights wrap around trees. I saw the light in the face of my little friend as she watched what was probably the biggest box she’d ever seen getting hauled into her house. “Look, Mom!” she cooed, her eyes wide, “Look at all the Christmas!” I saw it on adults’ faces as they opened their doors and saw that we had actually come back to do what we promised, that we remembered them, looked them in the eye. We didn’t see the tears, but of course we heard about them the next day, when their kids came to the afterschool program and brought with them the secrets of their sanctums.

I was walking a group of siblings home a few days after the tree delivery, and as she held my hand and skipped by my side, my seven-year-old friend confided in me repeatedly, “We put up the tree, and my mom made Christmas cookies, and my house is clean! We made cookies, and my house is clean!” As she danced into her house to show me the beautiful things her mom had put together to celebrate the season, I saw a house that had become a home. I saw a little girl coming out of herself, a mother freed to love and serve her kids through the little things. I saw the love of Christ, wrapping around, adorning, lighting up a home.

That’s when I got it. I get why we simply must have a Christmas party, a big, loud, very decorated, very crowded, and very sugary one. I get why we give gifts at Christmas. Why we have to keep giving, every single day for the rest of our lives. Because this good news we have is far from normal, but it’s still supposed to be for everybody.

2 Comments

  1. I love your John Hanley impersonation! And yes, Merry Christmas by all means!

  2. Oh, Amy. Beautifully put. Merry Christmas, indeed!

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