“I just don’t get why you’re doing this,” she said.
“It’s kind of a family tradition,” he replied, extracting another string of lights from the box. “Dad always decorated his boat for the annual Parade of Lights, and when they gave me my sailboat, I started participating every year.”
“But, what’s the point of it?”
He connected the string and looked for bad bulbs. “It’s just fun. It’s fun to decorate the boat, and it’s fun to see how others decorate theirs. Some of the bigger yacht owners really go all-out, and it’s awesome to see what they come up with.”
“Maybe I’d understand it better if I’d seen it before,” she said, shifting position on the deck. “From here, though, it seems like an awful lot of effort for one night.”
Pausing his work, he smiled. “I remember someone saying that same thing to my mother one year when she and Dad were getting ready for the parade. The guy told my parents they should be doing something useful instead.”
“Well, that does make sense.”
“Mom told him that Christmas celebrated God sending light into the world, and that the lights on their boat were just a small reminder of the star that shone on Bethlehem, and the glory of God that shown when the angels appeared.”
“Is that why you’re doing this? Do you believe that story about Jesus and the manger and all?”
He secured one end of the string to the stanchion at the stern of the boat, and started carefully wrapping it around the lifeline along the starboard side. “Yeah, I believe it, but even if I didn’t, I’d still do this.”
“Because even if the story is just fable, it reminds us to bring light and joy into our world. If we can embrace the idea that the birth of one baby could illuminate a time of darkness, and bring hope to so many people, then maybe we can illuminate some of the darkness around us, and bring hope to those we meet.”
She smiled at him. “Okay, now that I understand.”
Reaching the end of the string, he connected another to it and continued towards the bow. “You’re doing better than the guy my mom argued with, then. I don’t think he ever got what it was all about.”
“We spent enough time hiding in darkness and barely holding onto hope. If he’d been through what we’ve been through, he might have understood better.”
He reached the bow and swung under the forestay. “Normally, I wouldn’t do any of this until I was at the marina, but we have nice, smooth seas today. I shouldn’t get much splash on the electrical connections on the way to the bay.” He completed the circuit with the lights that ran up the forestay, to the head of the mast where a large star was secured.
“I wish I could go with you and see the other boats tonight,” she said.
He thought for a moment, and then gave her a sly grin. “Why can’t you go?”
“I can’t go to the mainland,” she objected.
“No, you can’t be seen,” he said. “What if you stayed in the cabin? You could lie on the bunk, and watch the rest of the parade out the window. The most anyone might see of you is a small portion of your face.”
“Do you think I really could?”
“Why not? It’ll just be you and me aboard, and we’ll cruise back out here after the parade is over. Just let your sisters know you’ll be gone, and everything should be fine.”
She rested on the bunk hours later, pillowing her head with her arms and watching through the window. The lights of the boats around them shimmered off the small waves, creating an ever-changing mirror display. People lined the nearby beaches and docks, waving and cheering at the vessels, while through the window on the other side she could see minimally lighted boats with occupants watching the display from the bay side.
The sound system played Christmas carols as they cruised along with the festive flotilla. “And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing, for the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King,” echoed from the speakers and across the normally dark water.
Light and hope showed on the briefly glimpsed faces nearby, but most of all in the faint reflection in the glass in front of her, and she smiled. This, she understood.
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