There’s much to appreciate about friendly competition. This said, an addendum is in order—all’s fair not only in love and war, but in Christmas decorating as well. In the latter category, however, we should forgive otherwise normal people who, at Yuletide, cast judgment aside in favor of reckless abandon. Mild-mannered folks who never keep score on eggs or tomatoes borrowed over backyard fences during other months of the years sometimes grow fangs in December. Peace on earth and goodwill toward neighbors take backseats to frenzied quests for the best in annual outdoor Christmas decorations.Feverish decorators—some creative, some klutzy—strive greatly to create the most talked-about neighborhood decorations. Their hero is Clark Griswold in the movie Christmas Vacation….*****Until this year, my wife has been in the major leagues of Christmas decorating. In years past, she has strung thousands of lights, standing atop 12-foot ladders on third floor landings to get the star placed “just so.” And, more recently, when she felt one more string of lights was needed, another dozen strings were strung.This year, though, she has opted for simplicity.Impressed by a display spotted last year, she surprised the family with this decree: “All I want this year is a cross, a cradle, a baby Jesus doll, a spotlight and a yard sign.”…*****It sounded like a piece-of-cake request, emphasizing that the cross needed to appear “aged and strong.”“You mean old and rugged?” I questioned. She nodded.Suddenly, I realized that she had described a “man” project. After all, she shouldn’t have to shop for 2x6 lumber eight feet long, dig a hole two-feet deep, saw-and-hammer a crossbeam, string a heavy duty electrical cord, construct a cradle and implant a spotlight….*****Maybe the most awkward part would be asking a guy at the hardware store if he happened to have any weathered redwood. (Choosing “weathered” instead of “used” seemed to make me more credible.)This might be a daylong Saturday project to pass my wife’s muster.I said a little Christmas prayer that all would be calm, and all would be bright….*****The fateful Saturday came, and behold! In just six hours, all was in place. No blood had been shed, no fingers sawed, and no thumbs bludgeoned. The entire project was seamless!My wife, long labeled a perfectionist by hubby and daughters, handed out “A-pluses.” The towering cross was “center-bubbled” on the level test, the electrical cord properly obscured, the light beam perfectly adjusted and the little cradle properly placed, just as she had envisioned. Only a hand-lettered sign remained undone, and she’d handle that.It had been a good day. Truth to tell, I gave myself a mental back-pat, caught up in the glow of a project that turned out well. After all, if good judgment had not prevailed, it could have been catastrophic….*****The good judgment was mine. Upon learning what Brenda wanted, I called son-in-law Kyle Penney in Tyler. He can fix or build most anything, mechanical or otherwise. I invited him and his family for a weekend visit.He agreed, and my life grew simpler. When they arrived, I handed him the shopping list and a credit card. Then, I retreated to the den to watch multiple football games on TV, and to keep my long string of nap days intact.My waking from the day’s final nap coincided with Kyle’s project sign-off….*****Within hours, all three daughters and sons-in-law, as well as six grandchildren, gave “thumbs up” to the Christmas scene.It is a sharp contrast to others in the neighborhood. They feature lights racing across rooftops and mechanical reindeer prancing across lawns. Inflatable figures must not be forgotten; no matter how carefully inflated, they invariably droop in various stages of deflation.Meanwhile, Brenda completed lettering on the little sign….*****The simple message is paraphrased from John 3:16: “The baby came for this.” The sign is centered, full light in front of the cross.I could have claimed a small role in the project if she had chosen something from Isaiah. She might have asked me to confirm the spelling. Spell check I can do.May your joys of Christmas be merry and bright, immersed in the wonder of the Savior’s birth. One final thought: If you choose to bow out of next year’s ruthless completion, why not consider mounting a simple, lighted wire frame on your roof? Write the letters “Ditto” inside, with an arrow pointing to your neighbor’s house….*****
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