The garage door opened and she watched as her husband walked through the living room carrying a ladder. She stopped him, calling out, “Honey—uhm—what are you doing?”
He paused. “Taking down the holiday cheer.”
“Oh good,” she smiled. “It’s January 11, after all.”
He didn’t smile. “We’ve been getting some complaints from the Homeowners’ Association about the twinkle lights still twinkling. The rules says we can leave them up until the end of the month. But someone’s being a big complainer.”
“Really?” she asked.
He nodded, clearly irritated. “Yep. And I guess one of the neighbors complained because our “Jesus Is the Reason for the Season” neon sign was still shining brightly in his daughter’s bedroom.”
“But it’s only once a year,” she said. “You’re taking it down.”
He set the ladder down, warming up. “I know! That’s what I said. ‘Jerry,’ I said, ‘if I can’t show off my Jesus at Christmas and well into New Year, then I might as well give up being an American.’
“I’m not sure if that’s exactly—” she began, but he cut her off.
“And he said, ‘What’s so American about an obnoxious sign?'” continued her husband.
Gently, she said, “That’s kind of my question.” Her voice trailed off.
He rubbed his hand together and paced a bit as he talked. “Hey, people died to give me the right to put out our giant nativity scene.”
“Really? That’s what all those wars were about? I must have missed that in history class.” Her tone was gently sarcastic.
He didn’t hear it. He quoted, “’We hold these truths to be self-evident. All men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of Christmas lights.’ Right there in the Constitution.”
She chuckled at him. “Honey, maybe you should just calm down.”
But he was too irritated. Continuing, he stormed, “Why should I be the one to calm down? Everyone is always telling us we can’t say Merry Christmas we have to say Happy Holidays whatever that means. I want people to know that Jesus is the Reason for the Season, so I’m gonna play my Christmas music nice and loud for the whole neighborhood to hear. These people need to know the truth!”
She knew his heart was in the right place and did her best to speak to that. “Well, maybe you went a little overboard this year. Is there a nicer way to do it?”
“Nicer? What’s nicer than a giant blown-up Grinch smiling and saying, ‘WHO loves the WHO’S? JESUS!'”
“But the neighbors do have a point, honey,” she said quietly. “And it is January.”
He agreed. “I know! Ted Murphy put up his lights and didn’t even bother making sure there was a manger scene. Whatever happened to ‘This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine?'”
She smiled, patting him on the arm. “Honey, your light shines so bright that Jerry’s daughter can’t sleep at night. Isn’t that what you said?”
He was on a roll, though. “Won’t let Satan blow it out! I’m gonna let it shine!”
She stopped him. “They’re Christmas lights, sweetheart. Maybe next year we should just tone it down a bit.”
“Tone it down? If we tone it down, how will the neighbors hear about Jesus? We gotta go bigger this year. In fact, I’m thinking of adding a giant sleigh for Santa next December. And Santa’s sleigh will have a giant Jesus fish and a bumper sticker that says, Merry CHRISTmas. That’ll show people the truth!”
She started laughing. “This may seem crazy, but what if we actually maybe told our neighbors about Jesus all year long?”
This was something new–and it took him by surprise. “What? All year? But—but—what about the inflatable Baby Jesus I just bought at the After Christmas sale?”
“I just think that maybe we lose sight of the fact that Jesus didn’t come just at Christmas,” she said.
“They don’t make Easter lights, honey,” he said seriously.
She sighed with relief. “I know. Thank goodness! But—and I’m just wondering here—but doesn’t Emmanuel mean ‘God with us?'”
He sat down on the ottoman. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“And God with us doesn’t mean, God with us only at Christmastime or God might be with us. Or God will be with us. It means “God IS with us.” Right now. At Christmas. At New Year. At Easter–and all year long.”
He looked up at her. “So, what are you saying? We should put up the Emmanuel sign on July 4th? Sounds good. And we can do fireworks! Great idea!”
She sat down next to him. “Honey, I think maybe we should show Emmanuel—Jesus—all year long. Not in a decoration, or a big neon sign, but in our lives. In the way we treat each other as a family—the way we treat our neighbors and friends.”
He half-grinned, getting it. “So not just “Jesus is the Reason for the Season,” but Jesus is the reason for everything?”
She squeezed his hand tightly. “I know you love your Christmas lights and decorations, but maybe the light we’re supposed to shine brightest is the one that shows Him best.”
He stood up to go. “So tone it down this year. Got it.” He started out the door. She turned to head upstairs when his voice called out.
“Uhm, honey, there’s just one problem!”
Pausing on the stairs, she answered, “What’s that?”
“I think I may need to get some help getting the giant angel choir off the roof.”
She laughed. “Why?”
“Without help we’re gonna have a bunch of fallen angels.”