We put up Christmas decorations last night. In our front yard. While it was misting. As dark fell.
Our neighbor to the right has her tree up.
Both of the two neighbors on our left have their trees up and their front porch decorated.
But this isn’t typical.
We’re unpacking Christmas early.
I’ve never put up a Christmas decoration before Thanksgiving.
And truth be told, I can’t recall anyone on our street having their decorations up the weekend before Thanksgiving either.
As we drove home from a Friendsgiving lunch (more on that tomorrow), I noticed several houses with Christmas décor up or going up.
Unusually early. They’re unpacking Christmas early.
I talked to my best friend the other day and she was setting out her nativity sets. Her husband refuses to let the tree go up before Thanksgiving.
In the halls of my office, I overhear conversations about the desire to get Christmas decorations up early.
In the grocery stores.
This is not about commercial stores and sales throwing up all their tinsel and snow the week after Halloween. No, that’s long been their habit.
This is about individuals. People saying let’s pull Christmas out early this year. We just can’t wait until Thanksgiving. Even though we always have before.
Everyone is unpacking Christmas early.
Why is there a swell of people needing to dust Christmas off and put it on display before they carve the turkey?
I have a theory.
This has been a hell of a year.
Better for some than others, as all years are, but as years go, if you’ll excuse my language, this one sucked.
In my close personal circle (my family, my extended family, and my close personal friends), this year has contained: death of children, suicide attempts, death of parents and grandparents, major health crises, job losses, surgeries, depression, marriages in tatters, legal battles and natural disaster.
Then add in the dark news in the world around us. Fires and floods and shootings. Poverty and politics and war.
Just. This. Year.
Do you know why Christmas is coming out early?
People need some hope.
We’re looking for more than holiday cheer.
We all need the promise of something new before we sit around the Thanksgiving table and share why we’re thankful.
Every single person on my list of crises above would tell you they are thankful. I would tell you I am thankful. And it’s not a lie. Or a mask of superficiality.
But I bet they’d also say, I’m thankful but boy things are hard…
Even in families where the children in the family aren’t directly going through the crisis, they feel it. They sense it in their families and their friends families. And they want to unpack Christmas early too.
It’s more than the hot cocoa and popcorn. And we sure had that last night after the wet cold work in the front yard.
It’s more than the happy Christmas songs we all sang along with while decorating. But that was ever present.
I believe it’s about what Christmas is. The heart of Christmas.
The baby in the manager. Christ with us. Christ for us.
It’s joyful memories. And hope for the future. It’s love and friends and family and presents for those in need and those you love.
Last night, I had four kids (one on loan) laughing as they wheelbarrowed out snowmen and candy cane lights and the nativity scene. They debated the placement of the Santa and the ornaments. We bemoaned the lights that went on the walkway snowflakes. It was unadulterated joy.
I felt elated. Overwhelmed at the joy and mirth and uncomplicated fun. Even though I’d been in an emergency room six hours earlier.
Christmas is hope.
And in a dark year, people crave something bright. Brighter than the lights on the tree. Cheaper than a stack of presents (free!). Even in the suffering, there is a great desire for joy.
So around our streets and cities, and maybe in yours too, we’re all unpacking Christmas a little earlier this year.
Maybe it’s just in the nick of time. It comes tumbling out right before we sit down to offer our thanks.
Maybe we all needed to look a little deeper this year to find our thankful. Maybe it’s laying in that manger.
I can still hear my grandfather’s rich voice reading this passage, and I find my own thankful in this early Christmas:
Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savoir has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Luke 2:10-12