I was nervous when I got out the big ladder and prepared to climb up on the roof. It had been several years since I had ventured up there to put up Christmas lights, and the last time I went up there, I broke a tile. I’m not afraid of heights, but I’m not too keen about falling. I had on a new pair of running shoes with lots of grip when I climbed up the ladder and shimmied onto the roof over the garage.
For several years I let my older boys do all the work on the roof. That made me nervous too, but I figured they were much more nimble than I was, and besides they are young and recover from injury much more quickly. Last year I paid the kids to put up the lights. They needed the money, and I didn’t really have time to get them up. This year I had a few days off before Thanksgiving and decided to tackle the job myself.
I made the first trip to Lowe’s and got replacement lights, but when I got home, my wife informed me that she wanted to change out all of our Christmas lights. Back I went to Lowe’s, but I was smart enough to insist that she come along and pick out the lights. (I’m not a newlywed.) She picked out multicolored LED lights for the house, and color-coordinated lights for the trees. I couldn’t see it working out that well, but I saluted smartly and paid for the lights.
I decided to tackle the lower lights first. I got up the first section and turned them on. They weren’t as bright as I thought they were going to be, but after consulting with the wife, I pressed on. That’s when I realized that I was going to be short some fasteners and went back Lowe’s for more. Of course, they were out of the fasteners I needed. I headed to Home Depot, and thankfully, I found them. So after four trips to the store, I was ready to climb up on the roof.
It was late afternoon when I tiptoed across the tile roof and got into position to hang the upper lights. The weather was perfect – no breeze, clear skies, and seventy degrees. All of you living in Northern climates, eat your heart out. I strung out the lights and started hanging them on the upper eaves of the house, carefully watching my foot placement and avoiding the edges of the roof. After a few minutes I got comfortable, but as soon as I realized that I was comfortable, I made myself get nervous again. Complacency kills. I didn’t want my gravestone reading, “Died while hanging Christmas lights.”
A funny thing happened while I was up there on my roof. Neighbors began to stop and talk to me as if I were standing in my front yard. Now, I live on a street akin to Mayberry, or maybe Beaver Cleaver’s neighborhood. So, it isn’t uncommon to see people out in their front yards prattling on about life, but I guess I never expected it to happen while I was hanging out up on the roof of my house.
One neighbor and I chatted about the recent election and gun sales, two things that seem unrelated, yet are not. Another stopped and related a story from his recent mission trip to Ghana to build a school. I was fascinated and moved by his compassion, but I was more impressed by the response of the people he helped. It made me realize how ungrateful I am for modern conveniences. Another neighbor stopped and talked to me about his job and invited me to check out their new facility (an aircraft maintenance hangar). I visited with the neighbor kids across the street while they jumped on the trampoline. People waved and greeted me as they went to the mailbox, or took their dogs for a walk. It was like being on the roof made me more accessible, or friendly, or maybe they were just worried that I would fall and they wanted to make sure their last words to me were friendly ones.
In spite of all the friendly interruptions, I managed to hang all the lights on the upper roofline and climb down without breaking any tiles or falling off. As the darkness approached, I stood in the street and admired the lights. The color scheme my wife picked out was perfect. The lights, although simple, brought the holiday spirit. I have to admit I enjoyed getting up on the roof this year. I especially liked how it attracted passing neighbors, and wondered if maybe I should get up there more often.
My experience on the roof reminded me of the scripture from Matthew, “What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.” (Matthew 10:27) The colorful lights weren’t the reason for the season. I went to the garage and pulled out my favorite part of the decorations – the nativity scene. I fixed the spotlight over the nativity scene, centered it on the baby Jesus, and illuminated a depiction of the most important birth in the history of mankind.