A strange phenomenon called the “green flash” happens every once in a while when the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean. As the story goes, when the sun is nearing the water line, the sky goes FLASH and everything turns green.
I like flashing lights and there are a lot of them around this Christmas season. I especially enjoy the store bought icicles with white LED lights that scroll from top to bottom. A Marshall family tradition is to go to look at houses that are completely illuminated with Christmas decorations. There is one we love near our old home in San Marcos that we call the Crazy Christmas House. The owner, Bill, starts setting up his modest front yard and mid-70’s house in September. The day after Thanksgiving, the lights go on. It is a winter wonderland of bright flashing lights. This year, his yard featured Christmas packages along with a blue water pond with fish and various animals fishing. There is a T-Rex with a moving mouth and his small arms are cradling a gift. We stopped counting the number of “Santa Snoopys” once we reached ten. His 30 foot tall palm trees are wrapped in lights, the roof is adorned with various animated animals and of Santa is on the roof climbing into the chimney. Now in his 27th year of this production, he told me that he does this to share the Christmas spirit with flashing lights and because of a sense of community.
Like Bill’s flashing lights that permeate the dark winter sky, illumine our hearts, and welcome our neighbors with a hearty, “Merry Christmas,” what I like best about this season is the Christmas flash. Every year, I get one which is like the green flash that lights up the evening sky over the ocean. It tells me the Spirit of Christmas is alive in my heart and my community. Last year, at our Children’s Christmas Eve service, the flash occurred somewhere in our closing hymn, "Silent Night." Maybe some of you saw it with me or perhaps it is intensely private, though I would be happy to share it, if I could. That flash carried me through our late service and stayed with me all through Christmas Day.
I remember the first time I remember the Christmas flash was when I was eleven. The flash showed me that Christmas is much more than receiving presents from a red-clothed jolly man once a year. The flash is the visible and emotional spirit of Christmas. It happened like this, during an 11 pm Christmas Eve service at my home church in Tacoma, Washington, a high pressure cold front had moved in under the low pressure rain clouds. The result is known as freezing rain. We walked out of the church, carrying our lit Christmas candles, to find the world had turned to crystal. Diamonds were still falling from the sky and bedazzled whatever they touched. Street lights turned to Christmas ornaments. The street became a pathway of silver and white that reflected in tiny prisms the light of our headlights. It was a magical Christmas Eve and while I have experienced many others just as magical, I have never known one quite like it.
Because of the sheer danger of driving, or walking, in freezing rain, all cars traveled at the pace of a trotting horse. It took a good thirty minutes to drive home, much longer than usual. We slowly watched our church friends drive off with their candles lit in their diamond crusted cars each looking like an elegant chariot with the light of the new born Christ child shining through the frosty windows. That Christmas flash has stayed with me my entire life.
I believe the flash results from a combination of beauty, prayers, serenity, and God’s peace. When those intersect, there is a flash. It is sufficient to carry me through the busy season of Advent into the grace and peace of the Christ child.
May the flash of the season be with you this day,
- Fr. Marshall