Christmas Decorations

It’s raining again in Nashville. Snow is on the way and we are looking at a couple of inches — not much if you are Jordon Cooper in Saskatoon, but quite a bit in the land where folks don’t know how to drive. I’m trying to decide whether we will cancel services tonight. My tendency is to never cancel worship, but this is the first inclement weather since I was appointed to serve the church on the hill and I know that there is no way to make it up the hill if the driveway is icy. I’ll spend the day wondering if I am making the right decision, no matter what decision I make.

As I pulled out of the driveway this morning I noticed the water dripping from our inflatable snowman’s cloth carrot nose. I should unplug him in the morning and save the electricity, but he looks so forlorn and limp in a pile on the ground so I keep him inflated throughout the day.

I know what some are thinking. “You have one of those Walmart thirty dollar snowmen in your front yard? How guache.” Yet I have two girls under the age of 10, and inflatable snowmen and flashing lights are the stuff of Christmas, so this year I gave in and purchased the snowman (he was on sale) and set him up in the front yard.

I’ve come to like the fellow, often standing crooked in the garden in front of the front bathroom window. Each day when I return home he’s there in the front yard waiting for me, like a faithful dog waiting on his master. His hat stands erect, result of some threads pulling loose, and he holds a candy cane and a snowflake, anticipating the white Christmas that rarely comes to Tennessee. I haven’t started talking to him yet, in fact I haven’t yet given him a name (although I think the girls call him frosty). I’ve been thinking about calling him George, since he reminds me in some strange way of that silent and understated Beatle who always worked his way into my heart.

We are the only one on our street of mini-mansions with an inflatable ornament. The houses on our street stand tall and serve as a testimony to the success of the mid-level executives that live there. Most of the homes have extensive decorations, but they lean toward the matching wreathes and white light kinds. You know the homes that I am talking about — the ones in the suburbs which has a Christmas tree that looks like it was designed by Isaac Mizathri. These trees have a theme, with matching ornaments, swatches of wide and expensive gold ribbon, and a certain sterility that suggests that the tree was purchased from Crate and Barrel rather than pulled out of the attic and assembled by a group of screaming kids and parents.

I too once fell prey to the white light syndrome — in fact I have to admit that I prefer the clean look of white, so simple and elegant. However Kay and the girls convinced me that it would be good to put up colored lights this year, so I pulled them out and threw them across the bushes in the random way that I generally decorate the outside. They shine in the middle of the neighborhood, a testament to difference in the midst of uniformity. They are for me like the lights outlining the runways at the airport, a beacon guiding me home and into the driveway. Then I see George, shining white like a lighthouse marking a dangerous shoal and I know that I will soon be in the warm embrace of those I love.

White light culture prizes uniformity and simplicity — things that I long for. Yet, in the colored light world that I live in, things are rarely that simple. In a white light world the Christmas tree is decorated by a calm group of quiet kids, drinking warm tea and using rulers to put the matching silk balls the same distance apart. In the colored light world the kids are a yelling at the parents and paper ornaments lumpy with paste get lumped together in one mass on the side of the tree. In white light world the houses are clean and coordinated, ready at a moments notice to welcome the traveling carolers inside for a cup of cocoa. In colored light world the massing Christmas cards are piled on the tables, the kids breakfast dishes are strewn all over the house, and there is no particular rhyme or reason to where the Christmas decorations land.

I long to live in a white light world, clean and comfortable, simple and elegant. But God hasn’t called me to this existence. I have been called to live in a colored light world, messy and broken, with lights that are loose and blink on and off, called home by an inflatable snowman who is slightly off kilter.

Such is life in the kingdom of God.

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