California Town Circles the Wagons to Fight for Christmas Lights

“To give light to them that sit in darkness.”  Luke 1:79

Residents of a neighborhood in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., are vowing to fight an official order instructing them to remove an interlocking display of Christmas lights that have been hung from house to house.  The lights must be taken down by tomorrow, Dec. 4th.

Some 15-20 homeowners in Wagon Wheel each reportedly received a letter from Orange County Public Works stating that the lights, which are anchored on multiple houses and suspended overhead, are an obstruction and a violation of the county code.

The lights have been a neighborhood tradition for years.

More than a dozen homeowners in the Wagon Wheel neighborhood of Trabuco Canyon said they received a letter from Orange County Public Works that said the lights, which stretch to multiple houses and are suspended overhead, are a violation of the county code, KTLA 5 reported.

“We’re in violation of a county ordinance that we’re not quite sure of,” resident Brian Kopiec told the station.  “When we bought the house, the people that sold it to us told us what a great neighborhood it was, and they actually warned us that the neighborhood goes great at Christmas.”

“I think it’s actually horrible, what they’re doing to us,” he added in the report.  “All the poor kids – they love [the display], and it really brings the neighborhood together.”

The residents have vowed to fight the ordinance.  Orange County Public Works did not return station KTLA 5’s request for comment.

If this neighborhood has been observing this tradition for years, how is it only now that Orange County has discovered that the display is in violation of code?  Could it be the code is so buried in some arcane register that they had to spend weeks just looking for it?

California is known for its progressive politics and its renewable energy mania.  Some bureaucrat heard about the display and decided they’d make an example of this neighborhood in Trabuco Canyon.  What could be a worse waste of precious electricity and energy than suburbanites lighting up their neighborhood for Christmas?

Evidently, California’s high electricity rates didn’t daunt this neighborhood.  So the Mean Green Machine had to resort to a secondary method to deconstruct this blatant example of Christianity, enemy of the bureaucratic state, and promote the Renewable Energy agenda.

When I was young, the view of our street from our house on the hill at Christmas time was like the landing strip at Cape Canaveral.  An amazing runway for Santa and his reindeer, we thought.  Although it’s a human display, it’s still heart-warming to drive along our suburban streets and see all the houses lit up in electric harmony.

Every week, the Jehovah Witnesses come to visit me.  We’ve discussed the tradition of the Christmas Tree and how originally it was a pagan tradition.  The ladies tisked at the notion until I reminded them that my great-grandmother lived in Demark, on the German border, in the 19th Century, before electricity.  Bringing an evergreen into the house was a way of keeping the air fresh during the cold winter nights when opening a window would let all the precious heat escape.

Yes, in ancient times, there probably were pagan extremists who worshipped the tree as a god.  For everyone else, I suspect it was simply a way of freshening the air and providing firewood for fuel when the tree died.  Maybe they did celebrate the Winter Solstice.  But thanks to Constantine, those customs were transformed into a celebration of Jesus Christ (who actually wanted us to worship God).

Saturnalia was celebrated on the shortest day of the year, Dec. 21st-22nd.  By the third day, the Roman soldiers would have been in a drunken stupor, making it safe for Christians to celebrate the birth of their Lord.  For the early Christians, who remembered Him (and His agonizing crucifixion), Christmas would have been a more solemn occasion, to be sure.  As more Christians were converted, thanks to Constantine’s tolerance and excellent salesmanship, the day became more joyous.

What’s wrong with a little rejoicing?  It’s right in the Bible:

“When they [the wise men from the East] saw the star [of Bethlehem], they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”  Matthew 2:10

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which be to all people.”

In Luke 1:46-80, Mary, upon meeting with her cousin Elizabeth, counts the blessings God has bestowed upon her as the mother of the Living God.  Elizabeth, in her turn, gives birth to John.

At the baby’s circumcision, his father Zacharias (who had been stricken dumb for doubting that his wife could conceive a child at an advanced age) says, “And thou, child, shall be called the prophet of the Highest; for thou shalt before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto His people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

I told the JW’s that I frankly couldn’t bring myself to abandon my lifelong practice of a Christmas tree.  While I understood that the tree was an artificial symbol (and, in fact, an artificial tree, for I would never sacrifice a living thing to celebrate Christ’s birth), it has ever brought me joy at the darkest time of the year and, in my childhood, during the darkest times of that unhappy childhood.

Just think of it, I told them.  Even though experts pretty much agree that Jesus was born sometime in the Fall, what better time could we celebrate His birth than on the darkest day of the year (or one of the darkest days).  What better time, than in the darkness of winter, when the sun has abandoned us, the days are short, the earth is barren of fruit, the animals are hibernating, the winds blow hard, and the temperatures plummet, to celebrate the bringer of everlasting light?

Perhaps it is only in our imaginations.  But for the moment, you can imagine the lights on the trees (and the houses) are the lights of Heaven shining not just down upon us but around us.  The lights of Christmas are a sign of hope, even if only for one day.  Yes, we should honor Christ all year round and all life long.

However, our years pass both quickly and slowly.  Especially when we’re young, healthy and prosperous, that Light seems remote.  Death (we hope, barring sickness or accident) is far off in the future and beyond it, an uncertain light to those who are in the midst of summer, blinded as we are by the summer sun.  Only in the darkness of the darkest night do we seek and perceive that eternal light.

That is why human beings only celebrate His birth on one special night (which has been extended by a month, so eager are we for the merriment, feasting, singing).  For those who may not have much joy in their lives, is it so much to allow them this brief moment of happiness in time?  In fact, is the transformation from the Pagan Saturnalia to the celebration of Christ’s birth not the very essence of His mission?  To bring light into darkness, to transform evil into good, doubters into believers, sinners into saints?

For my part, I prefer Constantine’s view of Christmas.  Let us pray that Orange County Public Works sees the Light.

Published in: on December 3, 2013 at 12:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

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