When Advent EXPLODES in the Suburbs

I guided the family swagger-wagon intoour suburban neighborhood after a busy Sunday evening of practices, games, shopping and nearly swerved into a mailbox. I was blinded by the light and color of the most egregiously festive outdoor holiday arrangement I had ever seen. These jolly home-owners erected an ensemble of a dozen or so Christmas characters inflated, brightly-lit, and conspicuously tethered across their front lawn. Each merry behemoth was illuminated from the inside and wafted back and forth a little like a punch-drunk boxer in the blustery winter breeze. My kids loved it. It was a party. There was Rudolph, Santa, Frosty, and every other animated Yule-tide character you could imagine near the main entrance to the ‘hood. I had the strong sensation this spectacle had not been there when we passed by earlier in the daylight. My wife smiled in disbelief, the enormous display must’ve taken hours and a couple of air-generators to construct.

The audacious and sudden display at this first house shocked all of us into the awareness that the Season had truly arrived.

Our alertness to the Christmas spirit heightened like frightened rabbits, we began to take notice of the elegantly decorated houses (much softer on our senses) as we journeyed deeper into the backstreets of the housing development. One of my favorites had all of the evergreens adorned with soft blue lights, the house’s edges outlined in white and candles properly arranged in each window.

It was truly a warm site.

As we arrived to our garage and migrated in the door, I smiled to hear the deep male voice of another neighbor’s inflatable Christmas display that belted out a constant selection of popular holiday songs and seemed most often stuck on the lines “fa-la-la-la.” I regularly forget about thismusical lawn ornament just over the hill from our home and allow thebaritonecrooning to startle me late evenings when I let our dog out of the back door.

The journey home reminded us that weare attempting to keep the Season with a new family tradition.

My wife made and Advent wreath with candles and placed it in our kitchen just after Thanksgiving. The irony is that with the busyness of life, we found ourselves forgetting a week and playing catch-up this past Sunday. We had two candles to light and several Scriptures to read as a family. We whistled, hurried, called and rounded up the tribe around the oak kitchen table just before bedtime. There was the usual squabbling for preferential seating, followed by protests and objections to the candle lighting duties and schedules, but when it was all set in motion, there was one small moment of silence to observe the gentle light entering the room. We gazed at the flames of the first two candles of Advent. The fleeting moment was soft, hushed and powerfully fragile; the quiet of our four children and the glow of temporal contemplation seemed to overwhelm the rest of life.

The moment with the candle strangely reminded me of the opening scene from the World War II drama, Saving Private Ryan, when the blast on Omaha beach temporarily takes the hearing away from Tom Hank’s character and slows the world to a silent steady crawl.

The gentle light of Advent is exactly the sort of unsettlingexplosion we need in our deafening world. Amidst the hurrying, consuming, electrifying, singing, and eating, something as simple as a candle can open our lives tobe invadedby the still small voice ofa mighty and infinite God.

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