[Jesus said] "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).
Driving to visit my sister this past week, I came around a curve in her neighborhood and was confronted by one of her neighbor's Christmas lawn decorations. Actually, "confronted" doesn't seem quite strong enough to describe it. "Assaulted" is a little too much, but not entirely inaccurate. Whatever you want to call it, I nearly swerved the truck I was driving off the road when I saw it. It was a brightly-lit sign. It was about as tall as I am and was about ten feet wide. It was sitting in the front yard lit up for all the world to see. What it said was pretty simple and just one word: "JESUS."
I wondered how many people had said something not too righteous upon seeing that sign for the first time. It was that startling. And honestly, while I appreciated the homeowner's commitment to keeping Jesus front and center at Christmas, I have to confess that I thought the sign looked a bit, well, gaudy — maybe downright tacky. But now that I think I've gotten over the initial shock of seeing this sign, and the more I've thought about it, the more I think I kind of like the big "JESUS" sign.
I can almost guarantee that no one drives past that sign without making some sort of comment about it. In a neighborhood full of Christmas lights, robotic reindeer, and 7-foot Santa Claus and snowman inflatables, everybody notices the "JESUS" sign. Even those who don't like it can't possibly ignore it. Plus, everyone now knows the commitments of the people who live in that house. There is no ambiguity about what they believe.
One other thing I think you know about those folks. They don't live for the approval of their neighbors. I wonder if anyone has asked them to take their "JESUS" sign down. I wonder if anyone has said, "Look, that thing's kind of an eyesore. Do us a favor and put up a big inflatable snow globe or glowing candy canes or something." I wonder if anyone has left an anonymous note or if they're violating some kind of neighborhood ordinance by having the now famous "JESUS" sign up. At the very least, I imagine they know that people are talking about the sign, and that some don't like it. But, these homeowners apparently don't mind the talk behind their backs, or at least they are not bothered enough to take it down.
I'm guessing that our neighbors probably don't want us to put a "JESUS" sign in our front yards — this season or any season. However, somewhere along the way, we have to step over the line of our own comfort and sense of respectability and identify with Jesus in ways that do reflect our Lord's character and compassion. This is not just about declaring our allegiance to the Lord, but it's also about sharing his grace. So may Jesus shine so brightly in our actions and words — as Jesus put it, in our "good deeds" — so that we won't need big "JESUS" signs in our yards for our neighbors to know our reason for the season and the reason for our hope in any season.