f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Grace Chik - "The Best Decorated House"

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Monday, December 27, 2004

Grace Chik - "The Best Decorated House"

Four months before Christmas the people of a little town of Naton were already in a frenzy. Every year the residents competed for the best-decorated house. All put their free time into making their rooftops and front lawns into a fantastic Christmas exhibit. The judging night was always Christmas Eve. The judge was usually the mayor or a prominent citizen but this year, the identity was kept as a secret. The winning house would get no taxes and free government services, such as electricity, for the whole year.

There was an endless clamour of sounds everywhere, from the stores to all the neighbourhoods.

"All right! Who broke a leg off each reindeer?!"

"Why didn't anyone tell me these Christmas lights are no good?!"

"What do you mean you ran out of those nutcracker soldiers?! You're supposed to keep track of all your inventory at this time of year!"

One day a new family settled in Naton in the midst of the traditional Christmas competition. The Kohowks did their best to live in spite of the ongoing racket. In fact, everybody was so focussed with dressing up their rooftops and front lawns that hardly anyone bothered to welcome them.

One morning, Mrs. Kohowk went out for a walk. The birds' singing was muffled up by the constant bickering and accusations within the neighbourhood.

"You stole my idea!"

"Did not! You're just jealous!"

"Turn down that music!"

"Keep your kids and dogs away from my lawn!"

She happened to see a woman dressing a frozen snow-woman in a maid's costume. Her display appeared to be a Christmas dinner party. All the trees and bushes were decked with lights and ornaments. A ping-pong table and chairs were covered thinly with snow. Ice sculptures were shaped and coloured to resemble food, plates and utensils; only the wine glasses were real. Mannequins in elegant clothes and jewelry sat around the table. Everywhere else frozen snow-people stood in servants' clothes.

Mrs. Kohowk greeted, "Good morning."

The woman turned and studied her. "I've never seen you before."

"My husband, my kids and I came to live here recently. My name is Marilyn Kohowk."

"Well, nice to meet you. I'm Betty Jones."

Marilyn was impressed of Betty's artistic effort. "Well, you are doing a good job. Did your family help you as well?"

Betty bitterly sighed, "Not as much as I wanted. They're supposed to help me right now but my kids are down with a flu. So, my husband drove them to my parents' place out of town and now he still hasn't returned. They always leave things for me to do."

Betty glared at Marilyn. "What are you doing here now? If you're thinking of stealing my idea--"

"Oh, no. My family don't have much to decorate our new home; so, whatever we have is already sufficient."

Betty seemed to accept Marilyn's response. "Okay, I can live with that. Now, if you will excuse me, I can finish this at best without any more disturbance."

Marilyn remained friendly. "Certainly. Have a good day."

During the light blizzard, on the night of Christmas Eve, Betty was resting in her living room when she heard a shout from outside.


Betty peaked through the small window of her front door. Scampering to Betty's front lawn was a small child in a very warm coat, boots, hat and mitts. As the little girl stared in awe at the dinner scenery, Betty was steaming in fury. From her coat closet she seized a broom. Rushing out the door, she swung her broom at the wandering kid.


As the frightened child hurried towards the next house Betty’s husband rushed out. He took the broom away from his wife.

"Bets, calm down. That was only a little girl. You should have helped her; she might be lost."

"What? And ruin my chance of being congratulated by whoever the judge is? That kid is becoming a menace of the neighbourhood. You're some help, Roger."

Midnight came and went as the blizzard disappeared. Betty was pacing around her living room. Unexpectedly a sight caught her attention off-guard. Walking up the road, in front of her house, were the mayor and the police chief. Neither man took a glimpse at her sculpture. Trailing behind the two men were a group of Betty's neighbours; all appeared to be curious.
Quickly Betty grabbed her coat and boots and stepped outdoors.

She managed to catch up to the front of the line. "Mayor Servot. Chief Branz."

The two men glanced at her. "Hello, Betty," greeted Servot.

"Merry Christmas, Betty," greeted Branz.

"Where are you going?"

Branz explained, "The winning house has been found and we're on our way to see it."

As the group continued their journey, more neighbours came out with curiosity. They also wondered why their homes weren't judged and the mysterious judge had already made his decision.

They came upon a house at the end of the road. It was decorated with absolutely nothing. Behind the curtains of a large window, one could see the silhouette of a tree with very small lights.

A voice at the back demanded, "How could this be the winning house?! We worked so hard at ours and this one has nothing!”
As others raised their voices in agreement the mayor calmly suggested, "Let's go in and hear what the judge has to say about this one."

They approached the front door. The police chief rang the doorbell. There were light footsteps. They heard the lock clicked. The door was opened, revealing Marilyn's smiling face.

She greeted, "Merry Christmas, everyone."

Betty demanded, "Marilyn, how can your house be the best-decorated place in Naton?"

Marilyn became puzzled. "I don't understand. My family has no intention of entering the contest."

Servot declared, "Perhaps we come in and clear the whole matter up."

As the guests entered the Kohowks' household, the neighbours gasped in astonishment. Drinking a cup of hot chocolate in the dining room was the little girl.

Marilyn explained, "My husband found her crying on our front lawn. He took her inside here. Right now he is talking to her parents."

The child turned. Horrified, she placed the cup onto the table and jumped off the chair. She rushed to the mayor and grasped his right leg.

"Those people are mean to me, Mr. Mayor."

Servot patted her head. "I'm sure they didn't mean to be that way, Jessica. You did a good job tonight."

A man who scolded the child before Betty did demaned, "What job? We've been waiting for the judge all night and he didn't show up."

Branz pointed out, "Au contraire, the judge did show up but you scared her away."

Everyone, including Marilyn, was surprised and gazed at the frightened girl.

Servot explained, "We the city council knew that you expected the 'mysterious judge' to be someone with high prestige and popularity. So, we decided to send someone who is everyone's least expectations. Jessica's family won last year's contest. I told Jessica that, as soon she found the best-looking house, she was to call me at Chief Branz's office. I must say, this indeed is the best-decorated house in Naton."

Branz pointed out, "For the past few years, just about everyone forgot the nature of the contest. It's supposed to have fun. Look what happened lately. Every day and night, the police force have to keep the town quiet from noisy bickering. There's nothing wrong with the contest itself; it's your attitude towards it. You've been putting so much priority on it that you've forgotten to look after the needs of others. Even when the contest was over, I've heard a lot of disagreements and broken friendships during those years. It's one thing to make your houses look good on the outside; if you continue to fight about decorating your homes at work, in stores or anywhere, or even within your own families, not only you will make your place a disaster, but also the whole town of Naton. Our town has become a war-zone area and there hasn't been much peace around here."

Instantly the crowd's skepticism melted. The once bitter neighbours became saddened in guilt. However, when they gazed at Marilyn's smile they felt a bit of tenderness in themselves.

Servot nodded. "Now look at this house. In fact, can you feel the warmth of this house? There's love in the air. That's what attracted our little judge to choose this place and that's one of the key ingredients of making this house beautifully decorated."

In the same way, we celebrate Christmas because God has given us the best Christmas decoration for our lives: the birth of His Son Jesus. Our lives, no matter how we live, are made beautifully as God has intended us to be.