We went to a Christmas light show tonight. A few families set up thousands of LEDs in their front yards. They had trees and stars and angels. Blinking and flashing. And all of it was set to music.
In the back corner of their display, once you made your way past the inflatable Santa Clauses and Snoopy and penguins, they had a manger scene - baby Jesus flanked by Mary and Joseph. Next to the manger scene, they had spelled out in ruby red lights: "Jesus is the reason for the season." Wonderful.
Jesus truly should be on our hearts and minds during this season. We celebrate God coming to us in the flesh, taking on the form of a servant and being found in human likeness. This is a wonderful time of the year.
But something caught my attention in the display.
Shiny and gray, with one candle lit, they had arranged to have a menorah in the display. Next to it was a blue and white light lit Star of David. I think it was intended as a generous nod to the folks who enjoy Christmas lights but don't celebrate the holiday around the birth of Jesus.
These two messages - "Jesus is the reason for the season" and "We're glad you're here" - appeared side-by-side. Literally, you could reach out and touch the two sets of lights.
To me, this seemed to communicate a mixed message. We know you're here (menorah, Star of David). You're missing out (Jesus is the reason). I imagine a Jewish child, wandering through a sea of Christmas kitsch and seeing an island that belonged to him, a solitary candle of familiarity. Then, through the menorah, the child would see the Christian claim. And I imagine that the brief spark of welcome would be stomped out.
Have you ever experienced this?
We're glad you're here, kinda.
Christian communities struggle with this. Perhaps every human community struggles to communicate welcome to an outsider. We like the way we do things. We believe the things we want to believe. We want to assert our truth claims. And if you surrender truth for the sake of welcome, you have nothing to welcome people into, right?
What would you have done? Would you put up the "Jesus is the reason" light? Would you put up the Star of David and menorah? Would you put them next to each other?
How do you live with the tension between truth and welcome?