Father Tom's Notes
I have always thought it bad form to put up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving, but I think that this year will prove the exception to my judgment. With the observance of Thanksgiving crushed for most people by Covid protocols, one can hardly blame anyone else for forging ahead to a bit of Christmas cheer in the form of lights on the house and displays in the yard. It has become expected for merchants to set the tone early in hopes of expanding the shopping season, yet I have seen, before the customary Thanksgiving threshold, some homes decked out, with even a Christmas tree in one house, and have thought, “Go for it. Overcome the restrictions and the disappointments, rejoice and be glad!"
The lights we see here and there reflect the tradition of placing a candle in the window on Christmas Eve in order to guide the Christ Child to our homes, in case He “finds no room at the Inn” elsewhere. This tradition is expanded wonderfully in Mexico in the Las Posadas tradition of lining the streets with luminarias (paper lamps) providing a path to the church so that Christ as well as the Faithful will find their way for Christmas Mass. My Mother always lit a single candle in the living room window on Christmas Eve, a tradition which seems to have expanded into my personal custom of placing a light in every window of the house. (I think it just looks a bit more festive.)
Light is, of course, increasingly important to us as we make our way into the increasing darkness of Winter. At least putting up Christmas lights early can be a way of expressing a desire for light rather than dark. Our Lord spoke of people who “loved the dark rather than the light” (John 3:19) and we see that today in those who would ban any mention of Christmas at all. In creating the cosmos, God the Father’s first words were, “Let there be light.” Beyond the illumination of the sun for the earth, we speak of the light as Jesus Himself in the Creed, describing Him as “light from light.”
A few Christmas hymns come to mind here: “Break Forth O Beauteous, Heavenly Light… and usher in the morning." The morning of which we speak in this lustrous hymn harmonized by J. S. Bach, is the New Covenant, begun in Our Lord Jesus Christ. In one of my favorites, “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” we speak back through time to our ancestors who lived in that holy city as we sing to them, “… yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” That is to say Christ Himself, humanity’s great hope, is met tonight. In the fourth verse of “See Amid the Winter’s Snow” the shepherds take their turn now to speak to us, saying, “As we watched at dead of night… lo, we saw a wondrous light… angels singing ‘Peace on earth’… told us of the Saviour’s birth."
So, decorate when you feel the time is right in this most curious year. Take for your direction a line from the hymn “People, Look East:” “…make you house fair as you are able… trim the hearth and set the table… Love, the Guest is on the way."