Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Lights (10/30/08)
TITLE: Pretty while they Lasted
By Sharon Kane
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We had lived in the neighbourhood for some time, and had bought the property just six months earlier. It was nothing special; an ordinary terraced house in a troubled inner-city area. Our neighbours were a mixed bag. Most were honest, hard-working folks who kept themselves to themselves. Some were real gems; salt-of-the-earth types for whom nothing was ever too much trouble.
Scattered around were more than a few petty thieves and ruffians whose faces were better known in the local police station than in the youth clubs and community centres. Without a doubt it was some of these hooligans who broke into our locked back yard one day, bolt-cutter in hand. They deftly sliced through the chain securing our motorbike to the steel bracket riveted to the wall. Seconds later they were joy-riding around the streets and alleys, gleefully wrecking the bike.
Then there was a terrifying fourth group, a minority who moved through the shadowy underworld of drugs and gun crime. They were undoubtedly the reason behind the police van drawn up further down the street one evening. Seeing it I gave my teenage baby-sitter a lift home despite her protests that it was still daylight and the walk would only take ten minutes... I learned the following day that the police had been called in response to a shooting, and I never let her walk home again.
In these and similar incidents we felt the fingers of the Wicked One worming their way around us. He sought to paralyse God's children with fear, to obliterate the light with his stifling darkness.
As we approached our first Christmas in our own home we searched for ways to reflect Christ's radiance in the wider community. 'Joy to the World — The Lord has come!' We wanted to shout it from the rooftops, to declare that He truly did offer freedom from the oppression of sin.
I'm not sure whose crazy idea it was to string up lights on the fir tree growing in our small front garden. I only remember that we had always seen that tree as a potential Christmas tree, and when we found the string of lanterns for outdoor use we decided to go for it. They were much bigger than normal fairy lights so they would be visible from quite a distance. In our minds' eye we could see them shining out in the dreary December nights, symbols of hope and joy in a world weary of sin and sorrow.
So we bought the lanterns, arranged them around the tree and plugged them in. How they shone — beautiful rainbow-coloured lights radiating joy and warmth in a sad, cold world. How they glowed — for 24 hours. When we woke up the following day they were gone, extinguished by some petty thief who had cut the wire.
“I guess we were naïve! We should never have expected them to stay there. Sometimes the darkness does overcome the light.” I felt bitterly disappointed. We had trusted our community to recognise our desire to make beauty available for everyone to share. We had hoped that people would respect that. But just as some people cut flowers in public parks, some similar petty-minded individual had cut right through our personal contribution to the local community.
“No, the Light keeps shining,” my husband gently reminded me. “Many prefer to lock themselves into the darkness because their deeds are evil. Jesus holds the key to set them free and bring them into the light but He doesn't force anyone. We can only offer His gift of life; we cannot compel anyone to receive Him. The lights are gone from the tree, but the Light still shines in our lives. Only if we allow discouragement to overwhelm us will the Darkness have the final word in this chapter.”
Days later we invited our neighbours into our brightly decorated front room for an evening of carols and mince pies. For those who had eyes to see, the fairy lights were eclipsed by the true Light that has come into the world. The fingers of the Wicked One have no hold upon Him!
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