The house down the street does it best: three lit Christmas trees in three separate windows. THREE.

The windows themselves, the eaves of the house (a modest product of the 1980s, small, a perfect match to about fifty other houses in this area by the same builder), and the front door are lined in strands of red, blue, pink, yellow, and blue. Plastic candy canes, gingerbread men, and Santa figurines are propped up all over the lawn – all glowing from within.

And back by the bushes, as if to balance out the pagan elements of the holiday, life-sized Mary and Joseph, probably 20 years old and molded from plastic, stand frozen, staring at Baby Jesus in the manger. Lit up, of course, accompanied by their friends Camel, Donkey, and Wise Man.

Compared to the displays highlighted by local newscasters every year, it’s tame. I’ve seen worse. Music, strobe lights, snow globes, and enough glitz and flashing lights to give a girl motion sickness.

But it’s gaudy to be sure, and my family and I reference it every year in comparison to our questionably atheist (or Jewish) neighbors. We thank God we’re not next door. I wouldn’t get a wink of sleep for the brightness. (And I’m the girl who, since childhood, has been known to blame the moon for being too bright.)

It’s a stark contrast to many neighbors whose houses remain painfully plain.

From my kitchen window, you can see this house. It’s a block away, on the corner, and I can gape while I wash dishes at night.

I kind of like it.

Lately I’ve been pondering what it means to be a “light” and what light does. Light attracts. It catches attention, provides direction, shines. It alerts. Light gives clarity.

Light stands out, as the gaudy house on the corner so clearly illustrates.  And as I gawk at this house, I wonder at the way it glimmers and lights up my dark street.

I wonder at the connection of the words “light” and “risk.” Because lighting up the darkness is a big risk. Plugging those Christmas lights in may create an “oooo, ahhh” factor. But they’re bold. Will people like them? Will they strongly object to the extravagant nature of the scene?

Is the light too bold, too strong, too bright – or perhaps not bright enough?

One things for sure: once the light’s on, there’s no place to hide.

Shift one house over. Black driveway, skeletal trees, closed curtains. The shadows on the front porch. Is anyone even home? Do they know it’s a season for celebration?

I wonder, would you rather light up like crazy, or not light up at all?




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