Thanksgiving and Black Friday have come and gone. We have gathered with family, feasted on turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, fruit salad and pecan pie, watched a few football games, played with the kids and enjoyed the sweet slumber that only tryptophan can provide. We survived Black Friday and celebrated a few bargains and did our part to fuel the American economy.
Today we unpacked Christmas decorations. When the children were growing up, we always celebrated with a live tree. In Minnesota we climbed aboard a horse-drawn sleigh, bundled against the cold, our daughter holding a bunny in her lap as a hand-warmer, and personally picked out a tree from off the hillside. We hauled it home, stood it in the living room, showered it with lights and ornaments. But, a few years ago, we opted for an artificial tree. It loses something in the fragrance and the romance of it all but it is easier.
My wife loves Christmas. She starts watching Hallmark Christmas shows before Thanksgiving. And, once the turkey has surrendered its life to our gratitude, she decorates for the season.
I have to admit I enjoy seeing the old decorations taking their place throughout the house. They are more than plaster, plastic, wood and glue. They are charged with memories of Christmases past: the snowman knitted by my wife’s mother, the handmade ornaments when our children were small, others far to numerous to list.
Metropolitan cities and small towns light up the land with Christmas lights. Neighborhoods are transformed. Shopping centers echo with the sounds of silver bells and Christmas carols. All of our decorations, along with The Nutcracker, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Miracle on 34th Street make it a magical time of year. I think God takes pleasure when we enjoy the Christmas celebrations.
Beneath and behind all our treasured holiday traditions lies the simple message that changes everything. “God became flesh and dwelt among us.” We are not disconnected from the Creator. In Jesus He chose to enter into our suffering, to show us a better way, to demonstrate His love, forgive our sins and give us eternal life. When Jesus was born, everything changed! There is good reason to celebrate!
All of the Christmas busy-ness can muffle the deeper message of the season. The birth of Jesus was not an escape from the burdens and realities that we all face. God became flesh to engage our humanity with all of our foibles, sufferings and sin. He sent His Son to overcome prejudice, pride, resentment and hate. He conquered the grave and lifted us to new heights of hope, joy, love and life.
“But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:9)