Keeping Christmas Fresh
As I walked through the airport, I was surprised to see my gate decorated with several flags. There were glass cases along the walls filled with all sorts of medals and pins. A wall lined with photographs of World War II heroes honored the family members of the airline’s employees. My eyes watered as I stood before these images from the 1940s of young men who had given their lives for the cause of freedom.
Standing in wonder, I glanced around at a few employees. I got the feeling they were very accustomed to their surroundings. I doubt they got choked up with emotion when they walked past the black and white photographs on the wall. They didn’t even seem to notice the flags and medals around them.
I really can’t blame them. I was seeing everything for the first time with eyes of appreciation and wonder. If I had seen that gate hundreds of times, I probably would pass by without a second thought.
It reminded me of Christmas. We have heard the story of the baby born in a manger, and the angels singing to shepherds. We have seen Christmas plays and heard Christmas songs. It’s very easy to let these familiar things pass by. Yet how much we can miss if we don’t stop to wonder.
The Bible tells us to “Remember the wonders he has done…” (1 Chronicles 16:12). This cycle of remembering gives us hope and perspective. You might imagine you are hearing the Christmas story for the first time as you listen to a sermon from Luke’s gospel. You may picture what it was like the day Jesus was born or what it would be like to have an angel appear to you with a heavenly announcement.
Don’t lose your sense of wonder just because the Christmas story is familiar.
When my daughter Lucy was two, she had a favorite purple stuffed animal dog named Violet. She was crazy about Violet! I thought it would be funny to rewrap Violet as a Christmas present. After Lucy went to bed, I took Violet and dressed her in one of Lucy’s sweatshirts and her bike helmet. I placed “Biker Violet” in a box and wrapped it in paper.
On Christmas morning, Lucy tore open the box to reveal her beloved Violet in a new outfit. She squealed “Violet!” in delight, hugging her stuffed dog tightly as if she had never seen anything so wonderful.
Violet was an old friend presented in a new way, and it evoked wonder in little Lucy. In the same way, we can take the story of Christmas and rewrap it to see this marvelous gift of God’s love with new eyes.
You might dress up and rewrap a toy like this for your young child. Just think of something you normally do and tweak it a little bit. For example, when you are decorating your tree, hide a favorite ornament. Talk about how Christmas can become all about winter, Santa, elves, and toys while the real meaning of Christmas remains hidden. Then look for that ornament and let that hunt remind your kids to search for Jesus each day.
Before you hurry off to a Christmas party or event at church, take a moment to pause in the car together with your family (warning: this does require some advanced planning to actually have two minutes to spare). Thank Jesus out loud for coming to earth. Ask God to touch the hearts of those you encounter. Set the tone for Christmas events by honoring God in your hearts and with words of praise before and/or after.
As we remember God’s wonders this season, may it stop us in our tracks. Don’t let the manger scene grow old. Like that WWII display I experienced in the airport, let us take time to salute the God who loved us so well that He sent His Son down to earth to save us.