While out walking our dog Duke the other night I noticed a new a trend in my neighborhood.
Nothing spectacular enough to make the local nightly news or go viral on social media, which is something I still don’t entirely understand. On that particular night though, as I walked down the street, bundled in hat, gloves, coat, and scarf against a damp, forty degree night here in South Florida, holiday cheer warmed me. Even though my calendar declared we were in the middle of January.
Some of our neighbors still have their Christmas lights strung outside their homes. In our neighborhood, most folks usually deem the week following New Year’s as the expiration date for public holiday decorations. All displays of red and green, sleighs, reindeer, the jolly elf in red and tender nativity scenes are tucked away then. These wait in storage as time dances through the calendar and we celebrate other things like the break from heat that winter brings, the end of the school year, graduations, weddings, and the last days of hurricane season and mosquitoes.
In most years, Christmas politely takes a backseat and waits. Waits until we’ve gotten up enough gumption after great Thanksgiving feasts to declare that the time has come to gather the tree, unpack the garland and wreaths, and string the lights. But the events of 2020 brought us a year where life seemed to be pitching a whale of a tantrum, putting us through Covid lockdowns, shortages, public unrest . . . I could go on and on but my blood pressure is rising as I type each element of this list. So, I’m going to stop there. We all know what happened. We lived it.
Which is why I’m so thankful for my rebelling neighbors who’ve decided that Christmas magic should be extended this year. As we walk the neighborhood, allowing Duke to sniff, bark, or greet his two and four-legged friends, the lights shine like strands of multi-colored pearls against the darkness of these long winter evenings. They remind me of a cold, black night when shepherds listened to angelic hosts delivering the greatest message of all time, that a savior had been born, for all of us. The angels’ glory lit up the sky as they directed their humble audience to fear not, to go and find this savior who would bring peace and goodwill to all people.
Those strings of lights remind me that life is about the really important things. Faith. Stroking your pet and feeling their silky fur beneath your palm. Hugging babies, kissing a toddler’s boo-boo’s, and sending kids off to college. Caring for loved ones or a friend in need. Praying for folks you’ll never meet because you heard they’re facing a tough time. Life is about believing that no matter how dark the night becomes, joy always follows in the morning.
I’m thankful for my neighbors and their overdue Christmas lights. God bless those holdouts, for they bring me good cheer.
And the good Lord knows we could all use a ton of that right now.