My wife and I took our grandchildren to see the Island View's Harbor Lights display down at the Jones Park in Gulfport. If you haven't seen it, I would recommend you do -- if you still have a little "wonder" in you. The display meshes Christmas music with synchronizing lights on large structured cone-shaped trees and other images that unless you are really scroogy would fascinate and interest anyone of any age. Knowing how casinos compete with each other I wouldn't be surprised if Biloxi had something like it next year.
There were no Nativity images which is understandable for a casino-sponsored event; it was totally a secular display complete with seacoast décor of light structures designed in the shape of leaping fish, crabs, crawfish, sea monster, sunbathing Santa, and a moving shark fin exploding into a large gaping shark mouth.
The display is rather comprehensive and satisfied my wife's annual yearning to ride around and see the differently decorated homes. Which we've done in past years. And we always of course found some to be more elaborately decorated than others. Many simple. I've heard some friends and others say that certain displays should have more of this or more of that. Or that they shouldn't have this item or that.
But really there is no standard by which one's decorated house should abide in order to be considered appropriate for the season or not. In this case, beauty is in the eye of the beholder -- if beauty is your qualifier.
But most of the decorated and lit up homes we see rarely too have a Nativity scene or any characters of animals that would go with the typical scene. Some whine that that there should be more representation of the Nativity scene in house displays, since that really is what Christmas is all about -- the celebration of the birth of Christ.
But for whatever reason people wish to exclude a Nativity scene, the fact that there is a display and lighting of some kind speaks nevertheless and unavoidably to that one cultural thing that for years, decades, and centuries moves people to break out into a visible change, a change representing to others that there's a reason something is different at this house, lit up and decorated. The implication and reason being, as you drive by, that a particular day of the year is soon coming. Namely, December 25th. It's not because of the end of year. Or because it is now winter.
Houses so lit up at night are the modern visible icons that shout, "Hey, we're decorating our house because December 25th is coming." It matters not whether they're churchgoers. They've chosen to participate in the celebration that God has intruded himself into this world.
Some resent the secular version of the holiday, the tacky commercialization of it, and instead prefer the more elegant display, the less vulgar, less crass expression of what should represent why we celebrate this time of year -- more specifically a certain day.
But the Christmas event was not an elegant event. The no vacancy inn, the hastiness, the surely filthy stall, the animals, the earthiness, the night, the lowly scurrilous shepherds. There was nothing tame about it. In some strange way the busy sidewalks with people smothering the impulse of religion with their purchases and "happy holiday" greetings speak somehow to the untameness of how some folks would otherwise want the season to be celebrated.
But it stands to reason that there should be a vulgar, unruly, loutish expression of the season. Let there be praise for the inflated reindeer and snowman bobbing on the front lawn. Praise for the fruit cakes, the gaudy wreaths, the gingerbread whatever, silly Christmas cards, and eggnog. For it's only appropriate that the tacky, the exuberant, and the wild represent the rowdy fact that God has intruded in this world. Nothing like it's ever been, nor ever will be.
The whole idea is to not withdraw from it all, but rather to break out. To break out into celebration however it be. With song, with extravagance, gaudiness, with limb-breaking ornaments, and if necessary to be sentimental, even mawkish. For it is the appropriate response, the only response -- what other could there be? -- to the wonderful and joyous news of the Nativity that God himself has descended in the flesh!
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I look forward to posting here after the first of the year. Until then I wish all readers of this blog, my patients, friends, family, and colleagues a most Merry Christmas and pray you will all be blessed with good health and new friendships in the coming New Year.