Our neighborhood is sparkly again.

Folks have decorated their homes for Christmas. Joanna, Lindsay, Molly and I never have lived where so many neighbors hang lights on just about everything within extension cord reach of an electrical socket.

Five families in our little subdivision also have put their homes up for sale, and they picked a great time. If they could just convince their real estate agents to show their houses during the evening, I guarantee potential buyers would say, “Boy, this neighborhood sure is sparkly” and snap those homes right up.

Our neighborhood is even sparklier now than last year. The Bivanses added white-light balls to all the trees in their front yard. Planes flying to DFW Airport now use their house as a navigational point. Not to be outdone, the Whites added a red-and-white-light snowman, who tips his cap about 126 times a minute.

We did our part, too. Jo went to the hardware store and bought two strings of lights that now outline our sidewalk. They accompany the smaller lights I’ve strung on the bushes and around the holly tree by the front door.

I hope folks who drive down our street see our new sidewalk lights and think, “Hmmm, understated elegance.” I’m afraid they look at them and think, “Ha! Ol’ Marv’s still afraid to climb up there and hang ‘icicles’ from the roof.”

This time of year, I particularly miss Jarrell, who used to live down on the corner. He always set up a large all-white Nativity scene he made himself and flooded with spotlights.

It was beautiful, and it reminded me of my favorite church Christmas decoration. When our girls were little, we were members of a small congregation in Nashville. This time of year, the centerpiece of the Lord’s Supper table always was a three-piece Nativity set someone donated and nobody had the gumption to donate to another church.

The pieces were made of molded plastic, and at one time, they probably were lighted from the inside. Of course, they represented Joseph, Mary and the Little Lord Jesus. Unfortunately, they always looked an incredibly lot like Ray Stevens, Karen Carpenter and a piece of lemon meringue pie.

This is disconcerting when you’re in the choir trying to sing, “Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto him, beee-eee unto him!”

Some of the young adults my age (those were the days) thought maybe we should “lose” the nativity set and buy the church a new one.

But I liked the pieces precisely because they were old, worn and definitely goofy. They reminded me Jesus came, small and vulnerable, into a world where people wear out and fade and break down. Not because of age, but because of sin and estrangement from God.

Yet Jesus, whose birth we celebrate, came to restore our relationship with God. And make the world sparkly again.

Marv Knox is editor of the Baptist Standard. This column was reprinted with permission.

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