When I was a child, on a Saturday before Christmas my father would get a tall ladder and stand precariously to string lights above our front door. He would always tell us that this was the year that our house would win the “Best Christmas Lights Award.” Somehow, I hoped that would happen even though there really wasn’t an award and we would never have won anyway. I could look across the street and tell the competition was steep.
In my teenage years, I stopped thinking about the Lights Award because I was more interested spending time with my girlfriend during the holidays.
It’s been a long time since I strung up Christmas lights with my children looking on. Yet yesterday I found myself winding strings of colored lights on a lone holly tree in our front yard. We live on four and half acres so it’s unlikely any award committee is driving down our street and even if they were, my decorations were hardly a work of art. My only hope is that my grandchildren might approve.
At a point, standing in the early evening, I wondered why I do this year after year. Perhaps I want to believe that amidst so much confusion and so much loss of direction and cohesion in this country and this world, maybe it’s worth investing in lighting what we can where we are.
I confess I need a Sabbath from the election aftermath, but it’s not enough to watch reruns of Grantchester. One of the quotations I carry in my head is from the Russian novelist, Dostoevsky: “Beauty can change the world.” When the world around us becomes more and more disordered, we must maintain a glimpse of a different realm. We must recapture a vision. I have spent more and more time reading novels since November 8 because I need an alternate narrative.
However, that’s not enough. I need to do something to incarnate that narrative in this world even if it’s only colored lights on a holly bush in the countryside of Western North Carolina. I’d like to think it might be an arrow that points to a different realm than what I see as the disorder in Washington, but even if it’s not, it helps me. It lifts my heart to know there are lights in the darkness of my yard.
Maybe that’s a place to start at least for our sake if not the world’s sake.