As I write, the scent of our Fraser Fir makes its way upstairs. As I breathe in the tree’s lovely fragrance, the light strings on the railing behind me come to life. I remind myself that Christmas lights from every direction inside and outside will do the same during the next few minutes. This possibility compels me to turn toward the living room where our tree will reign for a few more days. Since the tree’s lights aren’t on a timer, I walk down to the living room to turn them on. “You’re a good tree,” I say, fully expecting a satisfied nod in return. The tree responds by standing motionless as the lights along our eaves turn on. Not long afterward, the lights on the trees out front follow suit. Soon, all of lights that my dear husband and I hung weeks ago are aglow once again.
From time to time, it has occurred to me to urge Mike to coordinate the timers that control our Christmas lighting. However, an experience the week before Christmas indicated that Mike’s serendipitous timing is a very good thing. I’d been upstairs wrapping gifts. Though we’d made some online purchases which had arrived, one of our granddaughters’ gifts was delayed and I had only a picture of it to wrap for them. Because I wanted Ellie, Lauren and Claire to enjoy the surprise, I wrapped three boxes, each one inside the next. After spending an inordinate amount of time on those nested packages, I realized that I’d forgotten to include the picture in the smallest one which would be opened last. Ugh! I told myself, “It’s 2020. What did you expect?” With that, I opened boxes number 1, number 2 and number 3 only to find the picture in that last package. The picture I thought I’d left out was actually a misprint which I obviously should have recycled earlier. Ugh! “Yes, it’s 2020 all right!”
With that, I allowed myself to darken my mood further by mentally rehashing our collective misery throughout Year 2020’s pandemic. As I headed downstairs, the lighted garland on the railing blinked on. “Nice,” I said to myself. “I needed that.” As I walked on to the kitchen, the tree on our patio lit up. It’s glowing branches urged a smile from me. I opened the refrigerator to get my daily dose of Snapple, but was distracted when the lights on our porch went on. Every year, Mike and I find a small tree to decorate for our screened porch because we can see it from our dinner table. That tree’s lights glow warmly around the vintage nativity figures at its feet -one of my favorite Christmas scenes. As I reflected on those worn images of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, my discouraged mood left me. It was then that the tiny tree near our kitchen table lit up.
Until that afternoon, I hadn’t truly appreciated the efforts of the one who set the timers that control our Christmas lighting or the One who inspired him. That day, I determined that I’ll never ask Mike to coordinate those timers. You see, after I flipped the switch in the living room to light up our Christmas Tree, I raised the blinds behind the tree. Just then, the lights on our bushes went aglow. Our mailbox at the curb prompted me to save Mike the trouble of getting the mail. I emptied the mailbox just as the lights over the garage burst into color. With my spirit completely uplifted, I went back upstairs to finish wrapping the last of our gifts. As I taped a tag onto the last gift, I wondered if my dear husband was onto something with his seemingly haphazard timing of our Christmas lights. Each sudden burst of color emitted beauty in its own right which invited me to set aside my sadness and to enter into the joy of Christmas 2020. If our Christmas lights had lit simultaneously, I might have missed some of this amazing show and the uplifting grace that came with each click of a timer. No, I will never mention the serendipitous timing of our Christmas lights to Mike because I want to enjoy this light show again and again and again!
The unexpected bursts of light which I experienced that afternoon have much to say about today’s Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. John the Baptist preached at length about the coming of the messiah, the long-awaited one who was far greater than he. John proclaimed that he wasn’t worthy to tie the strap of Jesus’ sandal. Yet, when Jesus began his public life, he went first to John to seek baptism. In all that Jesus said and did afterward, he continued to deliver the unexpected. Jesus chose fishermen rather than scholars to be his followers and he invited women to listen as well. Jesus preached of humility, the poor in spirit, peacemakers and those who mourn. Rather seeking out the powerful, Jesus told his disciples that they were the salt of the earth and the light that would shine for others.
Jesus shed a completely different light on God’s plans for us than what those who awaited him expected. Just as our oddly timed Christmas lights set everything around me aglow, our most troubling circumstances take on an amazing aura when we allow God to enter into them. None of us need to wait until Christmas 2021 for the light show. As Jesus showed us, God lights our lives in the most unexpected ways at just the right times. Just watch!
©2021 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved