Christmas lights are a big deal in our neighborhood. Becky and I went for a subtle and tasteful string of multiple colors across the railing on the front porch. We think it looks really nice. But subtle is not necessarily the name of the game, so we may have to do something different next year.
Some of our neighbors have displays with thousands of lights and one isn’t even a display. It is a show, and a very impressive show at that. Auburn friends, you should drive by. We are in Bear Creek – off of County Road 52 between County Roads 31 and 35 (that’s how we name the roads between the cornfields here in Indiana – what it lacks in imagination, it makes up in pretty much always knowing where you are).
The word wonderland is much overused this time of year, but a nighttime drive or a walk through our neighborhood is worth the time it takes.
When the sun goes down, our neighborhood becomes something of, well, a wonderland of lights and displays. I love it.
Things don’t seem quite so wonderful during the daylight hours. The blow-up Santas and grinches and penguins and snowmen lie deflated on the lawns like fallen soldiers on a battlefield. Tangled messes of extension cords run this way and that across the yards and up the roofs. What was a brilliantly lit Christmas tree at night is exposed to be a wire frame held together by duct tape.
Reality isn’t so kind.
But what if the scenes we see after the sun goes down are reality and the backstage clutter of the daylight is meant only to point us to that reality yet to come?
Yet to come is but part of Advent; it is paired with the already of a baby in Bethlehem, shepherds, and angel choirs. And Bethlehem, shepherds, and angel choirs only make sense if the baby born that night is also the Christ of the cross and the Risen Lord of Easter morning.
Yet to come. All things made new. Eager anticipation. As J.B. Phillips translates Romans 8:19, “The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own.”
Even now we are invited to live in a world coming alive by God’s grace. Not yet, not fully, but a wonderful already. The Bible speaks of second birth, of having been no people at all but now God’s people, of being called out of darkness into marvelous light, of being lost but now found, and of being blind but now seeing. Opening our eyes, we see not a tangled web of extension cords nor a lifeless heap of brightly colored nylon, once inflated as our favorite holiday characters. We see a glimpse of things yet to come.
Like the front yards in our neighborhood during the day, our world seems a mess. What good might come of all of it? Maybe we are called to a reality to which the mess points, a reality marked by marvelous light. Maybe the Christian life really is a kind of wonderland.
I think we’ll go for a walk tonight.