There is a house I pass almost daily in my travels, usually multiple times. It is located about halfway between my own house and my church. Its position, backing up to a greenway next to my regular route, means that I have a good view of the back of the house rather than the front.
We have been living in our current home for almost 10 years, so I have been driving this same route equally as long. And for all of that time, or as much of it as I can remember, this house has been lavishly decorated for Christmas. And the decorations are 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 see the back of their house than the front. So for years they have provided those driving by with quite an impressive display.
That is, until last year. Last year Christmas came and went, but the lights never went up, and 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, last week the decorations were back! And they are identical to those we have seen on this house for years, so my assumption is that the house did not change owners after all (although I suppose it is possible the previous owner left the light display behind). Which leaves me to wonder:
What happened? Why were there no lights last year?
The possibilities are 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? Did someone deploy to Iraq?
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 tells me there is a story there. And as I look from that house to the next, and the next, and the next, and I think about how many houses I drive by every day, 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! If we were outside decorators (we're not), you can bet our lights would not be going up this year.
But thanks be to God that there is a Light that doesn't need me 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 season, may you bask in the Light of Him who is Light, as that Light shines to you and through you for all to see.