There is nothing more lovely than Christmas morning. Families rising from their slumber and parents pouring coffee as the children eagerly wait for “go” time with a fire kindling in the hearth and carols dancing in the background.   

However, what if that picturesque scene was interrupted by the blaring sound of a smoke detector in the wee hours of Christmas morning? Alarming?  Shocking? Worrisome? Indeed. Well, that very scenario played out in the Randall household on Christmas morning in 1985.  

Christmas morning was a sacred time for our family, as my mom, dad and younger brother enjoyed a peaceful few hours before the hustle and bustle of the day. My paternal grandfather would join us on occasion, as I turned on the porch light to announce the beginning of Christmas.

The Christmas morning of 1985, however, would not begin with me flipping on the porch light.  Instead, at 4:00 a.m., I was startled awake from my dreams. An unfamiliar sound came blaring from the hallway.  

After a second or two of trying to come to my teenage senses, the sound finally became recognizable.  It was the smoke detector.

I leapt from my bed, sniffing the air for detection of smoke. We had enjoyed a fire on Christmas Eve, sipping hot chocolate, nibbling on some sugar cookies, and watching The Christmas Story for the 20th time. I was certain an ember had escaped the hearth and set the carpet on fire.  

Strangely though, I could not detect any smoke, but the smoke detector would not stop. In fact, it seemed to get louder.  

I made my way to the door to feel for any heat emanating from the hallway. The door was as cool as the backside of the pillow I had just left.  

“What is going on?” I thought to myself.

Carefully opening the door, I peered down the hallway. What I saw sent me into an instant rage.

My parents arrived in the hallway at the same time I did. We looked at each other, then looked back at the scene between us.  

Standing on a ladder in the middle of the hallway was my younger brother holding a smoldering match to the smoke detector.  

He grinned at all of us with the smoke detector still reeling, then added, “Since we’re all up, let’s open gifts!”

Needless to say, my parents were none too happy with my brother, but they knew there was no getting him back in bed. So, we opened gifts at 4:30 a.m. as soon as we figured out how to remove the batteries from the smoke detector.

As I recall that particular Christmas each year, I am also forced to think about the smoke detectors in the first Christmas story.  

If you listen closely enough, the echoes of warning are all around: 

the rejection of an unwed mother, 

the realities of income inequality through the eyes of a day laborer, 

the harsh circumstances for those without adequate means,

the health risks faced by the poor,

the isolation of exclusion and poverty and 

the evil of dictatorial leaders who are more concerned with power than people.

The young family of the first Christmas heard alarms all around. However, their alarms were not sounded under false pretenses. They were sounded because of the realities of smoke and fire.

At Good Faith Media, we continue to sound the alarms when danger is afoot.

We sound the alarm not because we’re afraid or angered. We sound the alarms because we know what lies beneath the tree…what lies in a manger.

We sound the alarm because we want everyone to open the gifts of inclusion, affirmation, love, hope, joy and justice.  

We sound the alarm because we believe in a better tomorrow. 

Alarms can be scary when they wake you early on Christmas morning, but after you realize it’s just the hopeful anticipation standing on a ladder, you wake to the realization that the best part of Christmas is before you.

Merry Christmas!  

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