Sunday, December 13, 2020

Decorations -- The Reason for the Season

The prominent Norway Spruce proudly stood near the intersection of our farm driveway and the gravel township road. Every December, with the bucket loader on the front of the Allis-Chalmers WD-45, along with an extension ladder and long poles my father would wrap that stately conifer with large, colorful incandescent bulbs. His efforts over the years provided vivid light in the darkness of the rural landscape. I enjoyed the opportunity to place the plug into the extension cord and gaze in wonderment at the beautiful sight unaware of the frigid temperatures. 

December 1996, our older daughter wanted lights hung on the outside of the parsonage. It was a rambler, so only a tall step-ladder was necessary. Placing plastic hooks on cold aluminum gutters without gloves quickly made for numb fingers. Plastic breaks easily in sub-freezing temperatures. Copious amounts of snow had fallen since early November. Ladder placement beyond the driveway was only possible after shoveling. At least the aerobic activity with the use of mittens provided some respite for my fingers.  Finally the lights were strung. Some areas sagged due to broken plastic hooks. Some of the miniature bulbs did not light. I was not going to fiddle with small lights with frozen fingers! The job was done. I swore to never do it again. Besides, it paled in comparison to what my father produced in a more difficult setting.

Before you conclude that I am a Scrooge, I thoroughly enjoy the lights and decorations of the Holiday Season. In my footed exercise around the Fargo-Moorhead area (North Dakota + Minnesota border cities), the lights and displays take me down streets and avenues usually untraveled. I appreciate the physical efforts, the visual effects, the creative beauty, and the random chaos of the exposition. From breath taking to belly laughing my wonderment for decorations is as great as ever. If I do not have to be involved my joy is multiplied!                     

The seasonal phrase, as well as the marketing slogan, "Jesus is the reason for the Season" has been popular for decades. I sense it is often shared with the sentiment, "the real meaning of Christmas." My observation of light displays and lawn ornaments do not appear to go in that particular direction. Will Ferrell's, Elf Character, Nutcrackers, Santa, and Snow People are as popular, if not more popular than the traditional Nativity Scene. Multicolored lights aligning roof lines, moving snow flakes, and colored dots swirling on house siding are mixed together with air inflated Charlie Brown, the Grinch, and Star Wars characters. 

I do not advocate a particular meaning for the Holiday/Christmas Season. The traditional Nativity Scene is not necessarily historically accurate. I wonder if snow people grace the lawns of people in Columbia or Figi? What I really appreciate are the efforts of people to place lights and displays providing color in the cold and dark areas of my life.  Especially as the pandemic continues and uncertainties swirl like flakes in a snow globe, I am grateful for the distractions.  The multitude of displays provide hope, amazement, chuckles, and gratitude in my daily life.

I also ponder thoughts of God, a Higher Power being quietly displayed in our human actions. A traditional Christmas hymn has lyrics that capture my thoughts, "the hopes and fears of all the years are met in you tonight" and "how silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given." (O Little Town of Bethlehem)  This portion of the Gospel of John, also provides me reason to contemplate, "A light that thrives in the depths of darkness, blazes through murky bottoms. It cannot and will not be quenched." (1.5 VOICE Translation)

From a majestic Norway Spruce decades ago to a mannequin with a homemade sign, decorations are the reason for the season!  They express more than we can ever say.

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