A Clash with Christmas Lights and a King

Turning seasonal frustration over wealth and greed into an inward change.

The other night, we loaded up our kiddies into the van and went hunting for spectacular Christmas light displays. We drove to the far reaches of the upper-class suburbs, journeying from our humble abode in a lower-class urban district. It felt a lot like driving through a different country. Everything from the streets to the beautiful architecture of the homes was different.

I realized as we were driving through the ritzy neighborhoods that we were basically taking a tour of wealth on full display. Many of these houses had such intricate and expensive Christmas displays that you just know a crew of people were paid to come put the whole thing up. It was audacious and a bit frustrating, considering the amount of people who could have been clothed, fed and sheltered with the thousands spent on the Christmas displays. I felt myself become a bit angered by it.

As we rounded out our tour at the mansion with six giant firs draped in dazzling blue electric wonder, I then felt another thought that made my heart sink a bit – I was contributing to this lavish display. The wealthy folks out in the boonies may have spent their wealth on something I consider ridiculous, but there I was, pointing and smiling with my kids at the dazzling lights too. I was just as much a part of this lavish wastefulness.

So I had to contemplate how I am just a cog in a complicated world where the disparity between the world’s richest poor people and the world’s poorest poor is a chasm. Should I feel so guilty about contributing to the gross indulgence of these expensive light displays? Should I even be showing lights off to my kids, by enforcing on them that it’s OK to spend $20,000 on lights for people to gawk at outside their house?

So, that was the cynical side of me talking and it only made me more frustrated as we drove down the “Street of Dreams” in our city. But then, the optimist, happy-go-lucky side of me piped up and said that I needed to stop acting like such a self-righteous jerk, I go to Starbucks almost every other week. I own a car that, while used and fairly inexpensive for me, it would be about a year’s wage for some citizens of third-world nations. I own a house, for crying out loud. A large majority of the world doesn’t own their own home.

My frustration started to turn into sad introspection, but I then had to turn to God and realize that I can only do the best with what He’s given me. Like the servant in the Parable of the Talents, I will be responsible with what I’m given into my hands. I’m not responsible for the things I can’t control. He is. I can instead focus on the fact that I have children who I’ve been charged to teach that their stewardship is important as well. I am charged to show them what it means to sacrifice, serve and give. I’ve been pretty crappy about that myself.

Christmas lights aren’t evil. Probably many people that are wealthy enough to decorate their homes with lights aren’t evil (as far as I know, but who really knows how many Mr. Potters reside in their city, anyway).  What I can say is that we are living in a world with such huge problems we may feel that we need to despair at the sheer volume of it all.  Yet, the whole point of Christmas is that God came down to bring peace on earth and joy to all.  He has called us to manifest that hope to the world through doing what we can in the time we’re given.  We don’t ignore the world’s problems, but we also realize that we’ve been given a gift by God which we must share to all people.

Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods
Rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sound in joy

No more let sin and sorrow grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make
His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of his love
And wonders of his love
And wonders and wonders of his love

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