This past weekend I, along with hundreds if not thousands of others throughout our city I presume, spent a few hours on the roof hanging multi-colored orbs of light to signify our home is ready for the Christmas holiday. Yes, I gave up a chunk of my Saturday afternoon to brave the cold and biting wind for decorations. No no, don’t call me a martyr--I do it for the children.
Besides, it’s only fair I guess, since my wife spent the good part of nearly two days to get the inside of the house ready. Yes, we are THAT family. Christmas is in every room of the house from the top floor to the basement. It’s like there was an explosion at Santa’s workshop and every piece of garland, ribbon and wrapping paper landed neatly in our home.
But back to the roof.
I donned my winter coat and my finger-less gloves, propped the ladder up against the gutter and marched my way up with armloads of stringed bulbs. We’re old school. No tiny LED’s for us. No sir! We prefer to use those big bulbs your grandma had. Red, green, blue, orange and white. You know, the kind that no one sells anymore except your local hardware store—at 75 cents per bulb. Yeah, those. 75 frickin’ cents!
I tested all the strings before venturing up on the roof but that didn’t stop a good 25-30 bulbs from deciding not to work once I got up there (and yes, I was doing the math for every single bulb I replaced!) Armed with a staple gun and gutter clips, I spent a little more than three hours navigating the roofline. When I was done, we forced our two boys to come stand out in the frigid street and marvel at the work daddy had done. What a spectacle! What a display of my Christmas spirit! Wait…is that a blue bulb out at the very top of the…%$#@! Cover your ears and go back inside boys.
Later, as I was swimming in my self-admiration for a job well done, I happened upon one of our neighbors. We exchanged pleasantries, talked about the upcoming holidays, and then he asked me this question:
“Why do you only put lights on the front of your house?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, there’s no lights on the back. Why don’t you wrap the entire house?”
“Well,” I paused as I tried to wrestle with the answer, “...that’s the only side of the house our guests see,” I said with a confident smile.
“Hmmm…” my neighbor responded. I could tell my quick response had outwitted him. He went along his merry way. I returned to my big chair in the living room to watch some football. But then it started nagging at me. Why? Why do I only put lights on the front of the house? And wouldn’t you know it, the spiritual implications came screaming at me.
You see, my house, all lit up for Christmas is a lot like my spiritual journey. I work awful hard at making sure everyone sees the lights--those rare times when I truly act more like Jesus and less like me. But what’s going on in the back of the house is dark, cold and not very festive at all. That’s the part I don’t want anyone to look at. That’s the part I ignore far too often. But it’s there. There’s no front of the house without the back. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” But if I’m being honest, I shine my light far too often not so God would get the glory, but in an effort to blind others to the dark underbelly of who I am. Paul said he was the chief of all sinners, the worst of them all. But perhaps that’s just because I wouldn’t be born for another 1900 years or so. The back of my house is so dark. In my flawed logic, I convince myself that the more lights I put up on the front, the less the back of the house will be noticeable!
I want to be that person who wraps my whole self in the light. I truly do. I think we all do if we’re being honest. But behind the lights, behind the decorations and the spectacle of our good works, we are flawed, broken human beings who have a back of the house that we pray is never illuminated.
But here’s the good news: Jesus died for the back of our house as much as the front. In fact, He died so that those dark, cold back corners become light. And His light does wash away all that darkness far better than these 75-cent, “just like your grandma had” bulbs ever could. If you do not know Jesus, now is a great time to learn about him, as we celebrate his birth. God, who came to earth as a baby boy, whose death would turn even the darkest corners of your being into light.
This Christmas season I am thankful for a lot of things: my family, friends, my warm, safe home, to live in a country where I can still say “Christmas” (at least for now) and most of all, I’m thankful for a Savior who looks beyond the façade, beyond those lights that we proudly display to the world and sees us for who we really are. And loves us nonetheless.
Merry Christmas, my friends!