How Christmas Decorations Brought Joy

Deck the house with dazzling lights
Rosanna Tasker
What started as a Christmas tradition became an act of thoughtfulness

My family and I have always loved outdoor Christmas lights. Every December, we’d fill a thermos with hot chocolate, wrap ourselves in blankets, open the car windows and cruise through any wonderland of lights in our town.

Our own Christmas decorating began modestly. The mission my wife, Dale, gave me was simple: Drive to the store with our two boys, Mark and Brad. Return with two strands of outdoor Christmas lights. You’d think she would have learned her lesson after she sent us to buy flour, and we came back with a four-person raft.

Decorating the House

Once at the store, Brad whispered softly, lest other shoppers notice the great deal, “These only cost two bucks for 100 lights.”

“I guess we could get a few more,”

I said.

Mark began scooping lights off the shelf by the armful.

“ ‘A few’ doesn’t mean all,” I said.

“But we can light up our whole house! Even the roof! And all the trees!” Mark exclaimed.

“Plus, it would be fun!” Brad said.

Their logic was unassailable.

The result of all the lights on our house was so visually stunning that we scarcely noticed the sharp whine of the electric meter as it spun with the velocity of a buzz saw.

The first year we moved to our current home, when Brad was 10 and Mark was 12, we again put up our light display. By this time, we had enough wiring yardage to drape the windows, roof lines, chimney, garage, front fence, hedges, bushes, trees and stray cats that walked through the yard.

Joy Seeing the Decorations

Our neighbor, an elderly woman named Millie, loved our decorations.

Millie was a widow and lived in the house across the street. She rarely left her home, largely because she looked after an equally aging relative who lived next to her. She watched ministers on television and prayed in her home because she would not leave her relative unattended.

“I just love to see your lights!” Millie told Dale one day. “I look forward to it each year. I can’t get out so much anymore, but I can look out my window and enjoy the sight. It makes my Christmas.”

In fact, it was our Christmas light display that really sparked the friendship between Millie and Dale. One of Millie’s Christmas traditions was whipping up pounds and pounds of homemade candies, which she gave to friends and loved ones. One day Dale brought in a tray Millie gave us.

“She made all this?” Mark asked. She had gifted us with fudge, maple glazed walnuts, peanut brittle and a broad array of other goodies.

“That must have been a ton of work,” Brad said as he reached for a treat.

Continuing the Tradition

As the boys grew, developing new hobbies, friends and interests, our annual spectacle of lights began to dim. The boys and I would still hang lights, but fewer of them, and sometimes just days before Christmas.

A year finally came in which Brad said, “Let’s just hang a couple of strands on the fence. Besides, it’s almost Christmas and we’ll just have to take them down in a week.”

I agreed.

But Dale was now leading the charge of the light brigade. “It’s important for Millie, even if no one else sees them.”

Most of us won’t ever be touted in headlines, won’t be on television, won’t be in the spotlight and won’t wield national power. Odds are, most of us will scarcely be noticed outside of our small circle of family and friends.

But Jesus said that God notices, and rewards, small acts of thoughtfulness done in His name, even down to giving a thirsty person a cup of cold water. So Brad and I got the ladders and flashlights and trudged out into the night. We put up our family’s dazzling display of Christmas lights—not because we wanted to or had to.

That year, we decorated just for Millie.

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