“ugly” ornaments and the reach of the GOOD NEWS

The 2012 ornament!
The 2012 ornament!

Today’s story is a simple, whimsical tale. It goes with this “lovely” photograph (right) of an even lovelier Christmas Tree ornament (a more complete version of this story is featured in my book of Advent stories, In My Heart I Carry A Star).

large_159_LET-O-Snce upon a time there was a young, newly-wed couple; let’s call them “Kelly,” and “Tim.”

Kelly and Tim were looking forward to decorating their first home for Christmas, and filling their yule-tide tree with love, lights and ornaments that told the timeless tale of The Greatest Story Ever Told.

two of the brightest smiles at the pre-school concert
Kelly and Liam, two of the brightest Christmas smiles at our church

One day, Tim bought home a unique creation that reinterpreted traditional Christmas themes, making a strong statement in terms of alternative style (I believe it was a lipstick-clad reindeer wearing some kind of Christmas underwear and draped with a fur boa).

The young couple’s friends, Derek and Rebekah – evidently cultural Philistines with no appreciation for avant-garde costuming – declared the ornament “deliciously hideous” and determined to gift the unfortunate newly-weds with a similarly themed tree-adornment every year thereafter.

The ornament featured above is – I believe – the seventh in a series that may well force our long-suffering friends to – eventually – get the collection its own tree.

IMG_2903(NOTE: When the first ornament “happened,” I unwittingly offended the person who originally purchased the “stripper reindeer.” Later, after I explained how the humor of it had evolved, she forgave me and said she appreciated the spirit of the ongoing joke.)

Rebekah and I now scour the country in our quest to find the “perfect” addition to the alternative decorations. The quest is a lot of fun, it’s fueled by a lot of love, and it even serves to communicate some truth – albeit quirky – about our celebration of the season.

CHALLENGE: These ornaments remind me of how easy it is to build walls around narrowly defined points of view regarding what is “appropriate,” or “beautiful,” or “Christmassy” when it comes to celebrating the coming of the Christ-child into our world. And it’s not limited to this time of the year; we tend to hem God in behind our own preferences and prejudices as a matter of course.

  • there's room on our tree...
    there’s room on our tree…

    We too readily categorize “different” as unacceptable, forgetting that the invitation to come to Bethlehem and “see this wonder that has come to pass” was first issued without regard to dress-code, political persuasion, or behavioral profile…

  • We talk as if what Jesus came to save was our particular interpretation of the North American life, when what Jesus really came to save was/is every single person on the face of this planet…
  • We try to make Jesus more like us rather than striving for us to be more like him…
  • We have “stylized” Christmas according to the precepts of nostalgia rather than changing our life-style in response to Christ’s invitation to “Follow me….”
I think they go together quite well
I think they go together quite well

I pray that we see enough Christmases to witness Tim and Kelly’s tree overrun with “deliciously hideous” Christmas ornaments…

…and also to see every possible variety of the human experience represented in the Body of Christ, irrespective of how comfortable they make us feel, sharing the same branch of the holiday tree, gaudy and outrageous… and beautiful.



  1. I enjoyed this read, Derek. And I appreciate the message of your “gifts of ugliness.” It reminded me that, while I may find someone or something strange, they are likely thinking the same about me. We are just as “other” to the other as the “other” is to us.

    Liked by 1 person

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