In September 2008 I arrived as a missionary in Negril, Jamaica. October came and went and then November came with thoughts of Thanksgiving and Christmas in Cincinnati. The thoughts were of cold weather, brown grass, barren trees, and no vegetation and here I stood hot and sweaty, surrounded by green grass and lush vegetation! Ugh! Then, on American Thanksgiving night I went out the front door to lock the auto gate and caught my breath. Coco La Palm Hotel, across the street, had turned on their Christmas lights, a beautiful display which instantly lifted my spirits. It also motivated me to decorate our yard.
The next Christmas saw Mary Gate of Heaven all lit up. I let it be known to everyone that I was in competition with Coco La Palm and have had lots of fun with that over the years—and have gotten donated lights too. Last year, amid the pandemic and under a strict curfew, Coco La Palm did not put up one Christmas light. Not so across the street! I decorated abundantly, in DEFIANT JOY! Never mind that no pedestrians or vehicles would be passing by. I was not going to let the darkness of the pandemic dispel the light of Christmas.
The readings from last Sunday (Gaudete Sunday) speak of defiant joy. Despite persecution and difficult times, we are reminded that God is in our midst. We are to rejoice in the Lord always. In our own time; a pandemic, increased violence and crime, armed conflicts, displaced and starving people, destructive and deadly tornadoes, and so much darkness—we stand in defiant joy that Jesus is the light that dispels that darkness. That’s what my Christmas lights mean for me.
By the way, last year I crushed Coco La Palm in my competition. But, I confess, they have a beautiful display this year. And if I do not beat them, I take delight that I came in second!