We’ve enjoyed decorating our house for Christmas. Putting up the tree is always a highlight–getting out the ornaments is like opening presents. Remembering and talking about them is like nostalgia deja vu.
My favorites are the nativity, the angel choir, the homemade ones, the ones that were gifts from friends and family, the ones that were handed down and the ones I bought for Tom’s and my first Christmas. I guess that’s all of them.
I know there can be some hesitation on the part of serious Christians about going all out with a tree and presents and cookies and stockings and on and on. I have shared that hesitation in many ways. We don’t want the tree to overshadow the nativity. We don’t want the presents to overshadow the baby. We don’t want the anticipation of cookies to outdo advent.
Over the years of having a family and sorting these things out, I happily embrace the tree, the presents, the cookies, the stockings and all the rest of the good gifts and joy that come with Christmas time, even Jingle Bell Rock. One thing I’ve learned is that in our home, Jesus can’t be overshadowed.
I spent a number of years being very suspicious of anything earthy. I mean anything too physical, too material. For me, thoughts and ideas and beliefs were often disconnected from stuff, from my senses. To me, the material was often opportunity for sin. But what is the incarnation if not physical? Christmas reminds me of the material state of things–and God’s good with that. He made it that way.
And what if all this stuff, all this material, isn’t only opportunity for sin (which of course it is), but for good works? What if I’m supposed to look at the tree, not mainly with stand-offish suspicion (like, hey Mr. Tree, don’t be too much fun, or too much work!), but as a way to do something awesome for my family that surrounds and supports Jesus coming?
What if the presents aren’t a way to spoil them rotten, but a way to show the lavish love of Jesus? Now, I have to have a side-bar here, because I’d show myself quite ignorant if I didn’t say something about our culture’s tendency to overwhelm (in a bad way) kids with stuff. When the kids come up from the present-induced stupor of junk junk and more junk, I don’t think that mirrors the lavish love of God. And, if the junk is just a continuation of the junk that they’re getting all year at every hint of desire or whine, that’s gonna be real ugly. So, give your kids good gifts–not ones that are by their nature anti-social, soul-shriveling, real-man-hindering blech. Yes, I’m looking at you video games! And let Christmas giving flow from good and thoughtful giving all year–not entitlement. Side-bar over.
All the extras: the tree, the stockings, the food, the ornaments, the lights, they serve Him. They make a big deal of Him. It’s our job to draw the lines. We parents draw the lines between Jesus and the tree, Jesus and the stockings, Jesus and the food. If we don’t see the connections ourselves, then they very well might skew the meaning of Christmas into a gooey, sentimental, whine-a-thon for more stuff.
Parenting is connecting the dots. It’s actually more than that. A dot-to-dot is parenting 101. If your kids are older than two, you better starting getting out the paint-by-number. If they’re 8, find the watercolors. And if you’ve got teenagers, I hope you’ve got the oil paints out and are cooking up something masterful to behold.
As the kids grow, our parenting better go from connecting the dots of Christmas to beautiful tapestries that weave the story into everything we see. And if you’re weaving tapestries for your two-year-old (or painting masterpieces, don’t ask me to keep metaphors straight), all’s well. He’ll grow into it. Just be sure and sprinkle some sugar on top, cause that’s what Christians do, we give things the right flavor.
So this year, let’s look for opportunities for good works in Jesus’ name. Let’s get physical. Let’s let our deeds match our ideas, our beliefs, our high and lofty thoughts about the Incarnation. Let’s adorn this doctrine of Gospel with good works and good words. Let’s ornament our family’s hearts with words fitly spoken, with joy and love–and let’s mirror that with the ornaments on our tree that celebrate the one who made love and joy and fitting words possible.
“showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
(Titus 2:10-14 ESV)
“A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold
is a wise reprover to a listening ear.”
(Proverbs 25:11-12 ESV)