I’ve been thinking this year about some of the traditional activities connected with Christmas–presents, trees, music. This past week I had the wonderful pleasure to view Christmas lights.
Not just any lights. There are a couple streets in the city of Brea where the home owners (of very nice homes) go all out at Christmas and decorate in every imaginable way. They hang and drape and wrap and wind and string lights from the peak of roofs to the edge of lawns and everywhere in between.
The result is magical. I mean, it’s astounding the creations these people come up with. They portray every aspect of Christmas you can think of. There are yards outlined with candy canes, others filled with presents. There are arches with holly wreaths and poinsettias and bells and jack-in-the-box-like reveals of children or elves or Santa.
Snoopy and his his crew get a bit of attention and of course so do snowmen and carolers and reindeer. But clearly, Santa is the star of the show.
The new thing seems to be to upgrade his transportation. While there were some sleighs, there were also trains, helicopters, airplanes, and even one hot-air balloon ready to whisk Santa away to deliver toys to all the good little girls and boys.
I truly did enjoy the light show, but the thing that stayed with me most was the fact that out of the hundred or so homes we looked at, I only saw two nativity scenes. Two. A couple houses had big Noel signs and one had a “Wise men still seek him” sign. Another home had a lighted cross in an upstairs window.
When I was growing up, Nativity Scenes were not unusual. We used to visit the State Capitol Building in Denver, and there was always a manger scene among the many lavish decorations. Often in the windows of homes we could see a wooden stable with figurines of Joseph, Mary, a collection of shepherds, and magi huddled around a manger where the fairly old looking pretend baby Jesus lay.
One of the families in the school where I taught had twelve children. And they happened to be a very musical group (VERY musical–tremendous talent). At some point they decided to go beyond a nativity display to a nativity re-enactment. I mean, they had, for quite a few years, a new born baby, whether child or grandchild, to play the part of baby Jesus. They did this on the front lawn of their very large home in Fullerton, and people would come from all over to watch the performance, much the way I did this past week to view the Christmas lights.
The point is, the events the Bible tells about the birth of Jesus Christ, once were prominent in our Christmas decorations. Our technology has improved and our displays have become more elaborate, but with it, there doesn’t seem to be an increase in spiritual awareness.
I couldn’t help but think, though, that once a manger scene at Christmas didn’t mean anything more than any other decoration. They were common, expected.
Now, I doubt people here in SoCal put up manger scenes unless they are purposefully, intentionally making a statement about what they believe about Christmas.
May the lights shining from the homes with Nativity Scenes shine ever brighter this year.