My family has a running debate about when to put our Christmas tree. As I get older, I find myself more and more intrigued about the old custom of putting it up and decorating it Christmas Eve, and leaving it till Epiphany. My sister, on the other hand, had her tree trimmed, lighted, and bedazzled the day after Thanksgiving. It might stay up till Valentine’s day. My father and I expressed our disapproval on the Facebook Judgment Zone, but my sister managed to discover that part of my dad’s grumpiness came from his birthday—which is December 10th, right smack in the middle of Advent. Have I seen 37 years of my life ignoring my Dad’s birthday at the expense of bunting and lights? I don’t know, but it could be. At least all of us agree on one thing: colored lights are abominable and have no place on Christmas trees.
Of course, there are many people who believe, strongly (and wrongly!), that colored blinking musical lights are tres chic. But what, in the end, does it all have to do with Jesus and Christmas?
I think there is something good and wholesome and right about Christmas decorations, about the season of Advent, of preparing to welcome Christ. This year the focus of our Advent Vespers will be Sanctuary—a place of refuge, safety, welcome. We hope our congregation already is such a place, and this season we will be asking God to make us even more of a Sanctuary. God is the real sanctuary, and God created this sanctuary planet, where life can thrive, and God made a sanctuary people, the church, where people of every land and nation have a place.
So when we decorate our homes, getting them ready for Christmas, in a way we are practicing Sanctuary. We are making our house fair as we are able, as the carol goes, so that whoever comes to join us can sit and be refreshed and gladdened. Even if the lights blink in several colors and sing.