I heard a curious story on Christian radio this morning about people who have already put up their Christmas lights, skipping right past Halloween and Thanksgiving. Normally I’d say, “Oh COME ON!” or make the annual remark that Christmas is getting earlier every year, while throwing in something about retail and commercialism.  Not this year.  This year I understand.

As it turns out, as reported by news outlets from CNN to Good Morning America, this practice started as early as … wait for it … March.  In the early days of the pandemic, people around the country were putting up lights as a way of spreading cheer during a time of social distancing, and the phenomenon quickly spread to the U.K. as well.

Those Christmas lights remind us that there is something good and true and pure in the world, who came from heaven to be here with us.  They connect us to our past, to family traditions, to loved ones, to thoughts of happiness and joy.  Even if some of our actual Christmases were better than others, the lights represent an idealized Christmas: peace on earth, good will to all.

It’s understandable that we would want to skip past the election, fast-forward through the pandemic, and get right to the good stuff.  We can’t; but we can imagine it.  Maybe those Christmas lights help folks to reconnect to their faith when it is most needed.  So I’m not going to knock it ~ even if it’s all Santas and reindeer.

It’s also a reminder for those of us who have been putting our joy on the shelf, waiting for some far-off day when we might embrace it again.  It’s a reminder that the promise of Christmas is still here in this pandemic ~ and that our current chaos is nothing compared to the chaos of giving birth out of town while pursued by soldiers.  (We tend to leave that part out of the narrative.)  To put it another way: why not grab on to whatever joy is available?

There’s far more to the Christian story than Christmas, but it’s a good start ~ and there’s still plenty of time before December 25 to read the rest of the story!