The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it. – John 1:4-5
Christmas decorating here at Maul-Hall is an interesting phenomenon. Last year – with Rebekah recovering from surgery – the level of bling was fairly subdued; this year the house is moderately festive; years past have ranged from special to so-so to spectacular.
My all-time favorite (other than 2017, because I’m always partial to “the present”) is probably what is affectionately remembered as, “The Year the Lid Came Off!”
It was 1999 and we had become accustomed to a period of decorating austerity. We always had a small tree, we kept things low-key, we promoted alternative gift-giving, we never put lights on the outside of the house, and the wreath on the front door was our only real splash. That fall Rebekah’s mother passed away and – not wanting the season to be defined in terms of grief – we talked about upping our game a little in terms of seasonal festivity.
No decisions were made… we just talked about the possibilities.
Then one Saturday, early in Advent, the kids and I arrived home from shopping to find Rebekah on a ladder, wires everywhere, and the roof lit up like the main runway at Tampa International Airport!
“Hey kids,” she said, “help me unload the van.” By the time the weekend was over we had three huge Christmas trees in the house, lights everywhere, greenery in every room, bling, sparkle, glitter, luster, glitz, twinkle, glint, snap, crackle, and pop, and enough lights to threaten to blow the nearest transformer.
To my mind, “upping our game” should have involved cutting extra magnolia for the mantle, possibly stringing lights around our front door, and – maybe – putting a bow on the mailbox.
But Rebekah (are you surprised?) embraced full-bull, no-holds-barred, over-the-top, let’s-go-nuts festive excess. “Subtle” had been removed from our Christmas vocabulary, “measured” was an idea consigned to the past, and “low-key” simply ceased to exist.
I may have been in shock that weekend, but within another day or two I was completely on board. We’d been holding back far too long. The promise of Jesus coming into the world, the amazing gift of the Christ-child, the advent of hope, and peace, and love, and joy, the cosmic impact of this simple story… now that is something to make some noise about!
Over the next few years, we fine-tuned Christmas decorating at our Florida house with creativity and with joy. It was, in a word, spectacular. But so is Jesus, and the torrent of festive bling was always appropriate.
Here in North Carolina we have never duplicated what we did in our last home. But we haven’t tried. Our enthusiasm hasn’t dimmed, but this house is completely different, our style has shifted, we apportion our resources in different ways, and the light is coming from different places.
But Christmas most certainly still comes loaded with the imperative to shine; not just to shine but to blaze! The story of Jesus is more exciting, and relevant, and motivating today than ever before! The darkness that defines too much of the world around us is ever in need of this light.
The people who walk in darkness
will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness,
a light will shine. – Isaiah 9:2
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine – DEREK
(today’s images from Maul-Hall 2017)
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there's always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor's degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men's Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.