The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those who lived in a land of deep shadows— light! sunbursts of light! You repopulated the nation, you expanded its joy. Oh, they’re so glad in your presence! Festival joy! The joy of a great celebration, sharing rich gifts and warm greetings. The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants— all their whips and cudgels and curses—Is gone, done away with, a deliverance as surprising and sudden as Gideon’s old victory over Midian. The boots of all those invading troops, along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood, Will be piled in a heap and burned, a fire that will burn for days! For a child has been born—for us! the gift of a son—for us! He’ll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness. His ruling authority will grow, and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings. Isaiah 9:2-7 (The Message)
I broke a long standing rule in our household today. I broke it even though I made it. For years, I have abstained from putting up any Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving. Some years, I fudged a bit, counting the end of Thanksgiving as the end of the meal and not midnight, but for the most part, I have put Thanksgiving first and reserved Christmas for the day after giving thanks. It really bugs me that Christmas decorations in stores go up in July and Christmas music is played on the radio in October. Once I even joined a blogging campaign and wrote about how we should refuse to have anything to do with Christmas until after that date. When our kids were little, I did do my shopping by Veteran’s Day, but made them wait to put up the tree until after Thanksgiving. They were amazed to come home tonight and find the trees up and decorations out. I do not know what got into me. Perhaps it was coworkers talking about being finished, or the neighbor’s house’s shining with color at night. Maybe it was all the Christmas music on the radio or the fact that it is 97 degrees outside and I am dying for winter. Or the glass that arrived yesterday that is destined to be Christmas presents. Maybe it has something to do with the difficult year we have had and a longing for a time of joy and hope. Or maybe it is because it is oldest son’s first Christmas home in several years. Or the news from Korea today. I think mostly, it was the ticking of the clock. While we will spend Thanksgiving with my parents, husband’s family will be here for dinner on Saturday. In between cooking lasagna for two dozen, the opportunity to go horseback riding on Friday and the many glass projects I am excited about, I was afraid I would not have time to decorate. And heaven forbid that I would go back to work on Monday without being outfitted for Christmas. While there are no ornaments on the trees, the trees are up, the mantel decorated, the table displays and manger scenes out and the inside of the house looks very festive. I, however, feel quite guilty and made sure all the blinds were closed so the neighbors could not see what I was doing! The outside decorations will wait until the proper time, after Thanksgiving as it should be. I think I should have left up the Thanksgiving decorations a little while longer, but that seemed somewhat schizophrenic. Still and all, Thanksgiving and Christmas have much in common. The baby in the manager grew up to be the Messiah on the cross. While the ceramic baby Jesus now rests in my nativity scene, the tomb in which the real Christ laid is empty. Halleluiah! Make a promise that you will keep Christ first in Christmas this year. Whether or not, you decorate before or after Thanksgiving.