When I spent my first Christmas in my new home I thought to myself, “My goodness. These people really rush to get those Christmas lights up and try to outdo one another with their display.”
This all started on the evening of Thanksgiving and by that following Sunday, I think that perhaps ninety percent of the houses were decorated. It was as though there was an imperative written into the HOA document that required a homeowner to decorate with displays of Christmas lights.
Obviously, I needed to get with the program. And since I had lived in an apartment all my life, I had none of the necessary equipment to comply. But I found that there was an ample supply of material in the stores to allow me to fulfill my obligation as a new homeowner.
Some of the displays were extremely beautiful and tasteful. Others struck me as being a bit garish. I enjoyed the lights – but would not have chosen to fill my lawn with air inflated snow globes. And the one house with the fornicating elephants was just a bit over the top for me. (Or perhaps they were a part of a chorus line that was performing the Can Can).
You couldn’t help but notice the lights as the gate opened and you drove down the entrance to this little community. The lights on the houses provided far more illumination than the street lamps. White and colored lights lining the eaves and the bushes and wrapped around the palm trees. But that was then.
It was 2001. We had just a few months earlier suffered as a nation through the worst disaster in recent American history. Yet despite the fact that we were all still numb at the fall of the Twin Towers and were listening to the threat level under which the nation existed, we had the spirit and the optimism to put up our Christmas lights.
We still had a symbol of the season on the White House lawn that was called a Christmas tree. It would take a few more elections for us to put an ideologue in that residence and allow his ethnic cleansing to convert this into a mere “Holiday tree.”
But we did it. And, as bleak as life was, we managed to do it again.
The comparison of Christmas 2001 and the one this year is so clear that I wonder if this little community of homeowners is an isolated example of the nadir to which our spirits have fallen or is merely a microcosm of the entire nation. As I drove home from church early this morning, I was struck by the absence of lights. Perhaps only twenty percent of the homeowners had bothered putting them up at all.
The street which allows entrance to this little community was so devoid of light that the few houses where homes were decorated, seemed more to emphasize the darkness than they did to provide illumination. I was particularly struck by this as I had just returned from a celebration of the joyous Midnight Liturgy of Christmas.
Faith has been called, “The outward and visible sign of an inward invisible grace.” If that statement is reflected in our Christmas lights, then surely our faith has been eroded. And by that, I refer not only to our faith in God but our faith in ourselves as individuals and in our nation. And could it be otherwise?
We have been brain washed into thinking that government has all the answers. Yet if we look at the facts, those who are discerning will realize that government has created many if not most of the problems. Like a parent in denial about the bad behavior of his child who refuses to admit that his offspring is behaving in a way that is societally unacceptable, he continues to reinforce that behavior by doing the exact same things which have caused his child’s condition in the first place.
That we have incidents like Newtown, CT is not an accident. It is merely the manifestation of a society that has abandoned principle and decency and compassion, while cloaking itself under the self-styled mantle of a new and better principle and decency and compassion.
Newtown and the other incidents like it come about because we have become a society that passes laws which are unread by those we empower to craft those laws on our behalf and who specifically exempt themselves from following them.
What care do they have that a national grocery store chain has just informed their staff that beginning January 1st, all cashiers will have their hours cut to twenty per week, to avoid the implications brought about by an act of Congress and signed into law by the President? That doesn’t affect them. Nor will similar announcements that are undoubtedly forthcoming from other companies.
I cannot help but see the parallel between the decline of the Roman Republic into the centralized authority of the Roman Caesar – all with the willing participation of the Roman people who accepted the modest sops and benefits they were given as sufficient payment for their votes and allegiance.
And then one day, so enervated from their abandonment of the principles that had made them a great nation, they were too weak to resist the barbarians who arrived at their gates and slaughtered them. Like the Christmas lights in my neighborhood, theirs too had been snuffed out.
But if there is one thing that Christmas means to me it is that there is hope – that evanescent precious treasure to which too few of us today cling. We are taught both by Dante and government that we should, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”
And while the lights are now few and dim, I cling to the hope that next year, perhaps there will be one or two more houses that are lit during the Christmas season and that a few more people will remember the old values of real principle and decency and compassion. Because that is the true message of Christmas.