And so, the days of sharp cold winter are growing fewer and some intermittent days of warmth are beginning to lure us back outside for longer periods of time. This means some yard work to prepare for spring grooming and planting. It means taking walks in the neighborhood and not just on the treadmill. It means driving with the window down. It also means taking down the Christmas lights from the church rooftops.
This was the second year for me and Tim Beck to hang lights on the building. Originally, the idea struck while driving around downtown one night and noticing how dark it got once going beyond Main Street. I had been hearing about efforts to beautify and revitalize the downtown area. I also knew that St. Paul’s has a big heart for the area and being a vital part of it. Putting up lights along the parameter would serve a few purposes. One, our church would be contributing to the Christmas Spirit of Downtown. Two, our neighbors would see that St. Paul’s is alive and thriving and three, members would feel a sense of pride in their beloved church as they came to Wednesday night activities and advent services.
It was such a wonderful sight that we were also moved to add red and green spotlights to the steeple! As my family walked back up Beard St. from our first experience with the Shawnee Christmas Parade, we were delighted to have our church illuminated ahead of us like a beacon of the hope, love and grace that we were anticipating in the coming of the Christ child. It was at that moment that it took on so much more meaning. We were called to be a light in the darkness, a symbol of peace amongst the bustle, and a refuge of comfort and joy.
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.” Matthew 5:14 (MSG)
This year, many storms came through in December. Wind, rain and hail threatened to pull apart all of the work we’d done to be that light for downtown. Some of the lights around the crown of the steeple were battered to the point of not working. It was frustrating. We had hung the lights with our hearts full remembering how much it had meant the year before, and now the elements were trying to steal that from us.
I had invited our brand-new student director, Tim Boyer, and his family to the Christmas Parade. I wanted to help them fall in love with their new home the same way we had. Once again, as we walked back to our cars parked at the church, we saw St. Paul’s steeple shining in the distance; the lights around the building outlining the building we now called home. Resilient and weather worn, the sight lit up the faces of our church’s newest family. It was beautiful! Not long after, we walked the same way back with a group of people after having tied scarves around light posts on Main Street to provide warmth for those in need. There it was again, shining it’s light and calling us home as we sang carols and talked excitedly about the mission work we’d been doing.
Yes, the days of sharp cold winter are growing fewer and some intermittent days of warmth are increasing. The time to take down the lights has come. The symbol of our thriving will not shine again for many months. The lights that drew us to the refuge we call home rolled up and leaving only a silhouette. The glow from Tenth and Beard that let all of downtown know that we are here and we are a vital part of the area will be dark.
If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:15-16 (MSG)
This is where you, church, come in. God made us to be the light of the world! God created us to shine! We don’t need a string of lights to announce God’s love to our neighbors. We are God’s message. There will always be times that we feel dim or beat up by the storms of life. We will have days when we feel weathered and droopy and just don’t think we can shine. But, it’s that light of God within us that we can rely on. We are counting on you to illuminate the city with the spirit of God. It will be that beacon of hope, love and grace that will call people home to God’s refuge of comfort and joy.