Christmas lights say 'welcome home'

By: Dr. David Timms, Special to the Placer Herald
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In August 2007, Jeff and Mandy took a week’s vacation together. Jeff served as a church pastor and they needed a break. The week away rejuvenated their spirits and replenished some of their energy. Already married for more than 20 years, they talked about the future and made plans together. But the following week, Mandy dropped her bombshell. She wanted a divorce. In fact, she and a client had been having an affair for months. Jeff felt shattered. He needed to move out of the house immediately, but had nowhere to go. Dazed and shell-shocked, he decided to borrow a car and drive to Idaho where his aging parents lived. For 20 years, however, he’d had minimal contact with them. In his own words, he had hurt them greatly. But what else could he do in this crisis? Where else could he go to clarify his thinking and plan his next steps? The drive to the old homestead overlooking the Idaho Valley took many hours. The roads seemed irritatingly congested and road work slowed the trip even more. It was late in the evening — about 11 p.m. – when Jeff approached the family’s 10-acre property that had birthed fond memories for three generations. He pulled over on the shoulder of the road, afraid to face his mom and dad and overwhelmed with his new pain and burden. He considered heading to a local hotel for the night. Yes, that would be best...then call them in the morning and drive out to see them. But a voice within urged him, “Go on home.” Reluctantly, Jeff slipped the car back into “drive” and eased back onto the road for the final five miles of the journey. As he approached the family home he saw a strange glow. It was mid-August and the night still had plenty of heat in it. But at 11 p.m., he wondered, what could produce this kind of glow. Then he realized what it was. His parents had hired someone to put up all their Christmas lights. Lights bedecked the house and the driveway. Decorations stood out on the front lawn. And Jeff’s parents — in their 80s — were sitting quietly on the front porch where they had maintained a loving vigil for hours awaiting his arrival. Their grace triumphed over his shame. The lights declared “Welcome home!” As Jeff told me his story, tears filled his eyes. How appropriate that they should put out the Christmas lights! Those lights, reserved for Advent each year, signaled not just the coming of the Son of God, but the arrival of their own son that August night. This year as you see lights strung around homes and front yards, perhaps they’ll be more than just pretty decorations. May they serve as symbols of grace and healing for you and others, and a reminder that God has said, “Welcome home!” And look for the Father on the front porch. He’s still watching for our coming — the other advent. Dr. David Timms is a professor at William Jessup University in Rocklin. He holds a PhD in Ancient History/New Testament from Macquarie University in is author of four books.