Posts Tagged ‘lights


Let There Be Lights!

I have something of a love/hate relationship with Christmas lights.

I LOVE seeing them up, sparkling and twinkling their good tidings to the world. But honestly… I really HATE the work of getting them up there.

In the interest of safety, I have been forbidden to use anything higher than a stepladder to hang Christmas lights… which is probably a good thing. Lacking that constraint, I might be tempted to climb out to the tippiest, toppiest point on our roofline to fasten that ONE LAST light – only to become yet one more sad senior statistic.

This Christmas season – almost one year exactly since our move to Fort Collins, Colorado – was going to be a blessed respite from the luminous pressures of our previous neighborhood in Kansas City. 

For the past 10 years, Joan and I lived in a compact little 23-house neighborhood in Overland Park, Kansas called Terrace Place. However, between Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day Terrace Place magically morphed into CHRISTMAS PLACE and became a must-see destination for people from all over the city. 

I am not exaggerating a bit when I say that lines of cars and tourist buses backed up for blocks, waiting for the chance to cruise slowly through Christmas Place, admiring the creativity and radiant revelry of the CP neighbors. Those visitors also always contributed generously to the Salvation Army kettle at the end of one of our cul-de-sacs.

We always LOVED seeing the joy on visitor’s faces. But we also DREADED the approach of those days of ladders and lights and extension cords and staple guns and Ben Gay ointment. 

And so, the plan – coming here into our new neighborhood – was to free ourselves completely from the pressures of The Show. Joan and I were going to be content putting up our homemade manger scene in the front yard, sticking a wreath on the front door, and calling it good.

But then came 2020.

Then came the time of the global pandemic… the time of unprecedented national discord and division… the age of overworked doctors and nurses, overstressed parents, terrified essential workers and people barely hanging on and people who lost their jobs… then came the time of fear and uncertainty and tension and trauma and – let’s just say it – DARKNESS

And so, we decided – with maybe a little hesitation at first – that 2020 was NOT the right year to take a Christmas lighting hiatus. If anything, this year seems to demand something like a defiant YES! to the deafening NO! that we seem to be hearing from every corner. 

Admittedly, the writer of John’s gospel did not have C9, multicolored, LED Christmas lights in mind when writing these words, but the point could not have been clearer in John’s prologue: “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5, NRSV).

JESUS – the true light of the world – came to earth expressly for the purpose of overcoming darkness with light.

I know it is a bit trivial and naïve to believe that stringing up a few strands of lights – stepladder height! – amounts to any kind of prophetic resistance to the powers of darkness and despair in the world. 

The REAL resistance for any of us, of course, comes in the form of the lives we lead and the burdens we lift in the process. 

But maybe, just maybe, those silly strands will pierce through someone’s cloud for a quick moment and they will look up and smile… and give thanks. 

Abundant blessings;


Christmas Difference

Christmas PlaceChristmas 2019 is going to be very different for me from most Christmases in my recent memory.

For one thing, Joan and I will celebrate this Christmas in a whole different part of the country. That is because on November 21 we moved from Overland Park, Kansas to Fort Collins, Colorado… as fortune would have it, just two days before the skies opened and dropped fifteen and one-half inches of snow on Fort Collins, Colorado.

Timing is indeed everything.

Christmas in a new town with new neighbors and new community traditions will probably bring an engaging hybrid of emotions of disorientation and intrigue. I am sure there is a lot of similarity in the way Coloradans and Kansans celebrate the Yuletide, but you never know…

This is also going to be our first Christmas in the past 10 years we have not been part of the Christmas Place experience. For the uninitiated, Christmas Place is the name our former neighborhood adopts between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. It is the time when all 22 homes on those two perpendicular cul-de-sacs try to outdo one another in sheer electrical voltage drawdown. If you ever saw the movie, Christmas with the Cranks, you know exactly the scene I am describing.

If I sound a little jaded and grinchy about the whole thing, it is probably because I am… a little bit. Putting the lights and displays up in November and taking them back down again in January (or whenever) is a gigantic pain in the butt. On the other hand, the delight our efforts bring to the wider community never fails to dissolve that pain completely away. Tour buses from nearby senior citizen homes and lines of cars stream through Christmas Place every evening just to “OOOO!!” and “AHHHH!!” our handiwork.

This year, however, will be a very different scene at ChezBrown. Our new Fort Collins home will have, A.) a giant wreath hung on the front of the garage, and B.) our large nativity scene in the yard.

That’s it!! (Please don’t tell the folks back in Kansas!)

But the thing that might be the most different about Christmas 2019 will be that for the first time in a really long time, I will not be leading Advent and Christmas Eve worship services anywhere! I will instead be there sitting there in a pew, holding my lovely bride’s hand, participating in a service that someone else has designed and is fretting over the details of.

And I know I will be smiling the whole time.

My heart really goes out to those clergy families who experience the entire Advent and Christmas season as a non-stop flurry of activities, deadlines, obligations, projects, and expectations. It is the usual stress of the holy season times three for these folks.

That is why, knowing that stress and turmoil as intimately as I do, I am really looking forward to experiencing Christmas from the peanut gallery, as it were. This will be a time to see whether I am actually capable of slowing down, breathing deeply, opening my eyes, and soaking in the spirit of the moment instead of feeling the need to frenetically stage-manage a hundred different projects, all building to a climactic crescendo at 12:01 a.m. Christmas morning.

But with all that will be different about Christmas 2019 at our house, I am sure many other things will be exactly the same… foremost among those the time of celebrating God’s greatest gift to the world.

So how about you? What kind of Christmas will Christmas 2019 be for you? Will it be a time of change?… a time of cherished tradition?… a time of epic busyness?… or maybe a time of deep sadness and grief?

And maybe more importantly, how will we each make it a time to recommit our hearts to giving and receiving God’s gift of unconditional, sacrificial love?


Tree of Light

christmas treeYes, it’s true.

Today is January 24 and our Christmas tree is still up.

Fully decorated and lighted.

Know what else?

It will probably be up for another two days.

Every other scrap of indoor and outdoor Christmas décor has been carefully returned to its off-season storage place… waiting patiently for next year’s winter pageant.

But somehow we felt the need to hang on to the tree… for just a little while longer.

It might be because it has been a rougher-than-usual winter this year.

Part of that roughness is because it is snowier and colder here this year than the past six years combined. The childlike wonder with which I once greeted a snowstorm evaporated about the time I stopped celebrating school’s cancellation for a SNOW DAY.

For the past week, we have also been trying to cope with a sudden and heartbreaking end to the professional football season here in our hometown. I mean, sure… in the grand scheme of things, it is a trifling concern. But sometimes football fans forget to focus on “the grand scheme of things.”

I suspect there might be another reason we feel the need to hang on to the lights and shiny ornaments a little longer than usual.

I suspect it might have something to do with a shadow that fell onto our house about four months ago; a shadow that first showed up on a routine CAT scan that led to nine weeks of chemotherapy, a major surgery, and nine more weeks of chemotherapy; a shadow that caused both silent and out loud tears to be shed, but which also brought forth amazing outpourings of prayer, love, support, and hope.

So yes, we still kind of feel the need to have the tree here to twinkle and blink and light up the room.

But we are just about ready to pack it up and then try and see if we can find another source of light and joy.

I think I just might have an idea…

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