As a child, we never celebrated Christmas.
Well, let me clarify that. We had a Christmas tree and all kinds of tinsel. We also received Christmas gifts and sang about Santa Claus.
But we never celebrated Jesus.
It was a purely secular holiday for us. The church tradition in which I grew up believed celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday was a sin so, we didn’t. As a child, it was all I knew but there was something deep within me that struggled with leaving baby Jesus out. I could not have articulated that at the time, but looking back I can still feel the longing, the burning in my chest when I heard “O Holy Night” or “Away in a Manger.” I would watch the Vatican’s Christmas Eve Service on the tiny TV in my bedroom, staying up late into the night as the pageantry and grand life-sized Nativity captured my imagination and I wondered what could be so wrong about it?
What could be so wrong about celebrating the birth of the Son of God?
When I was a Senior in High School, my Acapella Choir performed a Christmas Concert. Back then we sang a mix of secular and sacred songs. During the finale, we filed off the stage with lit candles aglow in our hands to surround the audience by forming a circle around them. The lights of the auditorium were darkened and all that was left was the glow of candlelight and the choir, in perfect harmony, singing “Silent Night.”
I was an Alto, and my voiced blended beautifully with the singers around the room until a lump rose in my throat. Tears filled my eyes, causing the faces before me to blur, and I remember wanting this to be about a baby. I wanted this story, this Christmas story of a virgin on a donkey giving birth in a stable because there was no room in the inn to be true, to be the reason for all the lights and glitter and beauty and darkness pierced by candlelight.
I wanted it.
But there was this spiritual wall that I couldn’t seem to climb over. A wall of ignorance and legalism, of fear and rules that must be followed to even have a smidgen of hope that I would go to Heaven when I died. It was a wall that would begin to be dismantled, stone-by-stone, over the next few years until the day I fell to my knees before God and said, “I believe.”
And I remember that first Christmas as a brand new baby Christian. I remember the wonder and the glory of the only begotten Son of God coming down, coming here, robed in flesh and dwelling among us.
I remember, just two years later, walking down the aisle to marry the man I loved surrounded by red and green, poinsettias and Christmas plaid. And every Christmas, since, I go a little crazy because God did, too.
He went crazy with love, insane with mercy, fierce with passion to the point that He was willing to be tortured and murdered to save a wretch like me.
And my house is laden with twenty five years of Christmas memories, figurines and ornaments tucked in every room. Nativities grace tabletops and one, two, three…three big trees of mine and smaller ones for all the kids. Stockings and Santas and Nutcrackers and, in the center of it all, the baby. The ONE for whom this all began in the first place. The Christ child, born to die, sinless perfection, the spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Yeah, I go nuts at Christmastime and that’s ok. He is worthy, and the magic it all creates brings a sparkle to even the most cynical eye.
I have thoroughly enjoyed preparing our home for the holidays this year. This house was just made for Christmas, and we all agree that it is our favorite house, ever. What a blessing. What a gift.
Enjoy the photos of our decorations and feel free to share your own on my Facebook page! And remember, the goal is not Pinterest-worthy rooms or expensive accessories. It’s about making memories, celebrating the hope we have in Christ, and finding ways to turn our eyes away from the hard that has been 2020 and toward the promises God has made.
For, as Douglas McKelvey reminds us in his book, Every Moment Holy, “You came once for your people, O Lord, and you will come for us again.”
Yes, He will come.
O come, O come, Emmanuel,O Come, O come, Emmanuel-traditional
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.