I’d spotted the must-haves while my husband and I drove the kids around town to look at Christmas displays. I poked the car window. “Oh my gosh,” I wheezed, “Wouldn’t our eaves look perfect wearing those, honey!”
All seemed merry and bright, but Jerry knew what waited ahead. Okay, maybe I’ve had some other bright ideas, like: “Let’s hang Christmas lights in -2 degrees and slip and slide on the roof.” But this idea was golden. Shiny bling on a string, sparkly perfection. Who can resist?
Never mind that when we put the lights up, we knocked real icicles off the gutters to hang fake ones instead. Never mind that it took 260 attempts to stick/clip/glue the tinsel strands to the gutters. Never mind I’d added one more thing on a long string of to-do. Or that the house glowed like day at night! Still, I thought, we’d go big—at home.
Until the icicle lights burned out three days later.
Because not only were the lights horizontally tangly—but vertically tangly too. With Christmas lights testy by definition, all the hype was gone. I’m ashamed to say I got my tinsel in a tangle over, of all things … Christmas lights?
Despite the house adornment disaster, I maintained the possibility that a house wrapped in lights could illuminate out-and-out joy. Even outshine the tangles in life. And it can. But I had a vision of what I wanted Christmas to be, shiny and perfectly bright, and that December my glistening ideal unplugged with my father’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Moody and bright—Christmas didn’t look, feel, or happen that year even close to how I’d envisioned it. But you know what happened?
Christmas arrived and was more wonderful and beautiful and memorable than in years past. It came without fanfare, fuses, and fixes which meant more time to enjoy each other. To focus. And to pray. Christmas was shiniest that year because we stared at the limelight of Jesus’ joy.
Because while a few dark days can try to tie our thrill up in knots—our shiny reason to celebrate has never burned brighter. Although, I’ll admit, two lights can try to sparkle in this world: my own idea of larger-than-life, perfect light, and the One who actually is that larger-than-life, perfect light. But maybe it’s good when life loses some of its luster. It seems that when things “outshine” they light up spaces not really intended for them. Perfect joy is so easily overlooked that way. A close but distant mix of both the light of elation and the shadow of sorrow, joy isn’t typically flashy or showy. But man, can it light up a room!
I admit, sometimes I let my big ideas capture the spotlight, even the Christmas light. But God’s plan for everlasting joy is already illuminated:
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4: 4-5 ESV).
The perfect gift of Jesus can untangle our lives. Also, this verse is a beautiful reminder that it’s the Father’s job to be perfect—not ours.
In fact, Isaiah addressed flawlessness when he talked about what Jesus’ kingdom accomplishes:
“Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:7 NIV).
Jesus’ perfect holiness outshines our sin, and His blinding love invites us into relationship despite it. Forever. What shiny relief. And because temporary tinsel tangles too, we need this perfect hope. The light and promise of Christ’s reign brings merry with it. Grace too, as God’s love accomplished what we cannot, the calm and bright of forever.
There’s just no need to get our tinsel in a tangle. With our spotlight on Jesus, we can have the quiet confidence that Christmas brings. Maybe, perhaps, possibly the new rope lights too, because … “Honey, can’t you just see those hanging on our house eves?!”