I have just come back inside after spending a good portion of a Saturday afternoon doing something I thought I would never do — put up my Christmas decorations early. 

But this year is like no other, at least in my memory, and I felt compelled to get “into” Advent in a more profound way. If the superficial decorating of the outside of my home helps, so be it.

I’m one of those cranky people who sighs every time he walks into a home improvement store in October and sees Christmas “stuff” already out. I like Thanksgiving, and it has been completely usurped as nothing more than the fulcrum for the almighty commerce lever that is the “holiday” shopping cycle. Too bad, because Thanksgiving, though a secular holiday, has a lot of deep roots, theologically speaking.

But Thanksgiving is yesterday’s news, and it’s now time to concentrate on all those half-off deals on selected furniture or the ridiculously low price on ridiculously large televisions at your local retail outlet. 

This year was a little different. All those deals aside, “Black Friday” didn’t have the same zing it has had in the past. My wife and I took Friday to escape it all — well, escape is a relative term, we had a 2-year-old grandson in tow — up for a drive to Santa Barbara. It was a beautiful day and it was warm enough for us to stick our feet into the Pacific. And that’s about all we did. 

It’s amazing how a 2-year-old can still be overwhelmed and fascinated by the immensity of an ocean and the mystery of waves teasing him, as they never quite seem to cover the same amount of sand every time they die on the shore.

On our way home, we drove by several outlet malls, and noticed they seemed to be doing pretty good Black Friday business. We were happy to leave them to it and keep on driving. But as we drove, I started thinking of my early “attack” on decorating the house for Advent. We do hold off on interior decorations until after the tree is brought into the house — that isn’t for a week and a half or so. 

But since Advent is a time of penance, the penance of climbing on ladders, getting stuck by rose bushes, and being completely vexed by the Christmas lights I put away too haphazardly the year before, I was already preparing myself for the purple color of Advent.

Besides being early, my decorations are also different this year. Usually I just put lights up, and maybe a row of lighted candy canes, and of course a wreath on the front door. Nothing overtly religious. I have never been a fan of those oversized lighted Nativity scenes I’ve seen when I’m complaining about the Christmas “stuff” being out too early in October. They just seemed a little too kitschy for my tastes.

But this was also an election year and I was taken aback by another kind of house decoration on my block. There were lots and lots of political statements being made — all for one particular presidential ticket, with the only mention of the opposing ticket being a strong condemnation of it.

An earlier manifestation of myself would have countered all these signs with signs of my own, but the older, wiser, and slightly more temperate version of myself — with gentle advice from my even more temperate wife — let it slide. We have a nice neighborhood, and many of the people with the signs are friends. By playing “Switzerland” in my yard, it’s easy to keep them friends.

I was a little concerned that my desire to get my Christmas lights up early this year and to augment them with a new design element might be some kind of passive-aggressive political gene in me popping to the surface. There might be a little of that, I must confess, but I truly believe my early decorating impetus had more to do with my own belief that 2020 deserves to go out with as much focus on God as possible.

Using my rudimentary carpentry skills, I created a yard-size rendition of the Holy Family. It came out better than I thought it would, and it is now in front of my house with two solar powered flood lights shining on it when the sun goes down. It may not be a political statement the way the signs from the last election were, but it is a statement.