(RNS) — Bekah Stoneking doesn’t always get her Christmas tree taken down right away after the December holiday.
Sometimes Stoneking, who edits the Explore the Bible Sunday school materials for LifeWay Kids, will keep the fake tree up through the Christian celebration of Epiphany in January, glittering with warm, white lights, sparkling ornaments and a rose gold ribbon.
Then there was 2017, when it stayed up all year.
“It just makes me happy,” she said.
Recently, the tree standing in the living room of her Nashville apartment gave Stoneking an idea.
She’d seen the videos of neighbours in Italy gathering in their windows to sing together and of a fitness instructor offering a free workout class from the roof of an apartment building in Spain as people around the globe are encouraged to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19, commonly referred to as the coronavirus.
“That really challenged me to think, ‘OK, what are some ways that we can create joy for one another?’” she said.
So she switched on the lights on her Christmas tree, strategically positioned to be visible through her window.
It brightened her day, too.
“It just makes me feel warm and cozy and kind of stirs up those Christmassy feelings — like feelings of excitement and anticipation,” she said.
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Stoneking isn’t the only one who thinks the world might need a little Christmas now.
Across her small apartment complex, she’s spotted Christmas lights twinkling in windows.
Her friends started sending her articles about people in other corners of the country who had the same idea to turn on the lights still frozen to their rooftops or to pull their décor back out of storage to bring some light to a dark time.
And several people have shared similar epiphanies (pun intended) on Twitter.
On Sunday (March 15), Lane Grindle, a member of the Milwaukee Brewers’ radio broadcast team, suggested putting up lights and driving around to admire others’ as a “fair social distancing activity.”
A Rhode Island father named Mike Griffin said he got the idea to string Christmas lights from the tree outside his front window from his youngest son. He’s referred to it as their “Hope Tree” in subsequent tweets.
“Lights are on tonight as a sign of hope and the sweet mind of my 10 year old,” Griffin tweeted, along with a photo of coloured lights in bare tree branches.
Another user tweeted his mom had proposed people hang Christmas lights in their windows to “remind each other that there is still life & light.”
Stoneking hopes more people will join in.
Then, she said, “It wouldn’t just be about pretty things and fuzzy, holiday feelings. It would be a way of being in sync with one another. When we’re all separated and alone and sad but look up and see someone else’s random Christmas lights, it’ll be a moment where you say, ‘Hey! There’s my people.’ …
“It brings humanity into a situation that feels especially cruel and inhumane.”