Lights Out?


By Michael Heidt

Imagine the scene. There you are, living in the suburbs of middle America in December 2020, it’s cold outside and you think back on the year that’s been. Who’d have thought it? A potentially deadly virus, lockdowns, riots, looting, a contested election, job uncertainty and more. A dark landscape, so you decide to lift everyone’s spirits by putting up Christmas lights on the house. 

Well done. “Merry Christmas!” you say cheerfully to yourself while decorating a festive tree; things are starting to look up at last, and about time. Then boom, the Postperson arrives with a letter blasting your Christmas lights for intolerance, divisiveness, and “systemic biases.” 

Wow, systemic bias, that's pretty bad. So hurry up, suburban criminal, and report yourself for wrongthink. That's obviously before you work through a series of struggle sessions in the nearest Maoist Minnesotan reeducation center. Satire? If only. Four Minnesota households in a suburb of Minneapolis, St. Anthony, received an anonymous Advent letter this year, excoriating them for decorating their houses for the festive season. Here it is:

I couldn’t help but notice your Christmas lights display. During these unprecedented times we have all experienced challenges which casual words just don’t (sic) describe what we’re feeling. The idea of twinkling, colorful lights are a reminder of divisions that continue to run through our society, a reminder of systemic biases against our neighbors who don’t celebrate Christmas or who can’t afford to put up lights of their own.

We must do the work of educating ourselves about the harmful impact an outward-facing display like yours can have. I challenge you to respect the dignity of all people while striving to learn from differences, ideas, and opinions of our neighbors. We must come together collectively and challenge these institutional inequities; St. Anthony is a community of welcoming of all people (sic) and we must demand better for ourselves.


Demand better? Yes, you should, freedom from latter day secular Puritans telling you how to behave, to say nothing of their tyrannous absurdity. Were you aware of the harmful impact of your divisive, biased, oppressively twinkling, colorful lights? No? Well now you are, so take down those so-called “merry” lights, bigot. And by the way, the inclusive St. Anthony Collective welcomes all people, except Christians with their egregiously offensive “outward-facing” displays.

Leaving aside the nonsense of the “harmful impact” of twinkling lights, consider the mean-spirited, dictatorial selfishness of the person who wants to take them down. Dennis Prager, commenting on American businesses replacing “Christmas parties” with “holiday parties” puts it well:

And in (just) one generation, virtually every American business has gone from having a ‘Christmas party’ to having a ‘holiday party.’...It takes a breathtaking level of narcissism for a non-Christian to be offended by mentions of Christmas and a breathtaking level of meanness to seek to deprive the vast majority of fellow Americans of the public mention of their holiday.


A breathtaking level of narcissism and a breathtaking level of meanness. Yes indeed, to say nothing of a totalitarian resolve to tell your neighbors how to behave, and all in the name of tolerance. Prager might well have added breathtaking irony to his list of offences. But of course this isn’t about tolerance, it’s about imposing your will on other people. Being “welcoming,” for the anonymous letter writer, really means getting rid of public signs of Christian celebration. And there you have it.

The enemies of Christmas are against its outward display because they’re against its inward spirit or truth. They’re anti-Christmas because they’re anti-Christ; the claim that God became a man, and lay in a manger in Bethlehem under a star for our salvation is abhorrent to them. And if they can, they'll ban the Feast of the Incarnation from the public square, as did their spiritual ancestors, the Bolsheviks of 1917 or the Puritans of the seventeenth century. But not so fast.

Even the iron gates of Hell themselves have not and will not prevail against the angelic host, which cries out, Gloria in Excelsis Deo, glory to God in the highest, at the birth of the Christ Child. Nothing, not even mean-spirited, Midwestern killjoys can stop the miraculous wonder of Christ’s coming into the world. It’s happened, and that can’t be changed, the Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us so that we may live with Him in eternity.

Call it oppressive, call it harmful, call it what you like, but the “people which sat in darkness have seen a great light” (Matthew 4:16), and all the tyrants on earth, from Herod on, will not be able to stop the adoration of Christ, our newborn king.

To return to the suburbs of Minneapolis. The people of St. Anthony disobeyed the Tolerance Commissars and refused to take down their intolerantly twinkling Christmas lights, their outward display remains. And more power to them. Who knows, perhaps the brave residents will be moved to put up even more decorations until the darkness of Minnesota’s night is ablaze with light, a joyful light celebrating the birth of Christ. 

Will the impact of the spectacle and the glory of it move the hearts of our Twenty-First Century Scrooges such that they, becoming wise, fall down and worship? We must pray it does. In the meanwhile, have a very merry Christmas! Lights on.

Fr. Michael Heidt is a priest in the Diocese of Fort Worth and Editor of Forward in Christ.

Forward in Christ

Proclaiming the Faith and Order of the Church, given to us by Christ.