is my favorite time of the year. Christmas is approaching, and we all
know what that means—that’s right, lawn decorations! I love to watch
otherwise lovely suburban properties transform into festive, winter
wonderlands. Oh, the joy of watching homeowners string lights, some
blinking, some not, all over their houses. To blink or not to blink
seems to be a highly personal preference. Personally, I am nonblinking
but, hey, to each his own. We see white lights, bright lights,
multicolor lights, houses draped with only single- or two-color
lights—and again it’s highly personal. I prefer many colors.
Large characters begin to
appear, usually Santa and reindeer, gingerbread men and their
gingerbread houses, snowmen, elves, angels, and, of course, the plastic
holy family. You’ve seen them: Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, who
always looks like he’s got a full diaper and for some reason is rarely
swaddled properly. This disturbs me. It’s cold out there on the lawn.
Often an angel is
lurking around the nativity. Sometimes this angel is
huge and no longer matches the holy family. It stands behind them with
large spreading wings—sometimes blinking, sometimes not.
I prefer nonblinking angels. But
I suppose if you need an angel, a giant one is the way to go. And the
wise men are present and situated off to the left as though they are
still arriving. Balthazar, it seems, is nearly always face down on the
lawn. Am I right? He always falls down. Strong winds in Bethlehem.
What I find especially
interesting is how the homeowners combine not only the religious
aspects of the holiday but also the secular. Notice, however, as you
are making your holiday wanderings this month that almost without fail
the religious icons are placed on the one side of the lawn, while the
secular are on the other. Except, of course, for one house I
visit that has Santa in his sleigh being pulled by three reindeer
flying over Mary and Joseph and Jesus. He’s actually hanging from a
tree limb, but the effect works. I used to wonder what could possibly
be going through the homeowner’s mind. “Oh look, Joseph, it’s Santa. I
told you he was real. And look, he left me an Easy-Bake Oven.”
we have these giant inflatable figures popping up or blowing up on
lawns everywhere. Great big Frosty the Snowmen, oversized penguins,
gigantic Santas, and even incredibly large inflatable nativities. My
favorite is the one with the holy family inside a snow globe complete
with mini blizzards every three minutes—swirling pieces of plastic in a
tiny vortex. I mean, wouldn’t you just love to have been a fly on the
wall at the research and development meeting that created that one.
“Oh, oh, I know, let’s put them inside a snow globe with swirling snow
bits. People love that.”
But to the homeowners’ credit, I
must say I am impressed and dazzled by how so many have chosen to keep
Christ in their Christmas decorations. My father loved Christmas and
always decorated the house . . . and not with those tiny sissy lights.
He used only the large, manly bulbs that exploded when you stepped on
them or threw them against a wall. He never put any blatant religious
symbols on the lawn.
our nativity had a special,
sacred place—on the HiFi. That’s right, the HiFi! That large chunk of
furniture with the sliding door on top? For you young people, that’s
where we hid the record player. Uhm, I could almost see Mary and Joseph
swaying in time with Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole. Actually, they were
vibrating from the beat of the woofer inside the cabinet. Nice, except
there was that one time when someone stuck an elf inside the crèche. We
don’t discuss it anymore.
Perhaps this memory is why I am
so affected by Christmas lawn décor. I can still hear my father
hollering that elves have no business in the manger. Just between us, I
think it was my mom who committed the crime because that little tiny
elf continued to appear and reappear throughout the year in the
strangest places, and when discovered, Flossie would crack just the
tiniest grin and her eyes would sparkle like tinsel.
then one day, just a few
years ago, as I was traveling I saw that someone had put Frosty the
Snowman in line with the three kings. And it struck me: This is the
gospel. So what if there’s an elf in your nativity? Or a Frosty in your
three kings procession. Go ahead, invite the gingerbread men to see the
baby Jesus, move Santa closer, put those snowmen right in there. All
are welcome to visit with Jesus. So this year, if you are tempted to
get upset when someone puts an elf in your nativity, don’t. It’s all
right. We know elves are only fiction, but maybe he could represent
those who need Jesus, just as they are, dressed in an elf suit even.
Prayers of Agnes
Sparrow has been selected as one of the top five Christian
Inspirational titles of 2009 by Library Journal.