In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. – John 1:1-2
Welcome to December, friends! Here in Wake Forest we’re enjoying seasonably cool temperatures, clear skies, and around twelve inches of freshly fallen colorful leaves coating every conceivable surface.
It’s fall, Christmas is on the horizon, we live in a peaceful and beautiful town, Thanksgiving is fresh in the rearview mirror, and we have much to be grateful for.
This morning I’m thinking about the sometimes unsettling contrast between the beautiful simplicity of the birth of Jesus, and the razzmatazz that so often defines the way we approach things here in the land of hype and entertainment. My conclusion, however, may not be what you expect going in…
I took a few of photographs from our current decorations to illustrate what I’m talking about. If you look around our living room, everything is fairly low key. There’s not a lot of bling, and most of what we’ve put out so far points to the simple narrative of a young, displaced, Jewish couple bringing their first child into the world in difficult, oppressive, can’t-catch-a-break circumstances.
The manger scene is unadorned with glitter, the only light comes from a star, and even our tree looks somewhat restrained. It’s a story that doesn’t really need showbiz, glitz, a line of Rockettes dancing behind the tableau, neon lights, pyrotechnics, or a bearded jolly man in a red suit flying through the sky pulled by eight magical reindeer.
The story doesn’t need the glam. Yes, that’s true. But – and I believe this is a very important point – sometimes WE need the glitter and that’s more than okay. And – another truth – sometimes when we peer more closely, look more intently, and open our eyes more completely, then the story shines so brightly we find ourselves looking around for shades!
That’s the other photograph. Same tree, same decorations, just more of a closeup. And what do we see when we connect with the story of Jesus that intimately? Well we see more light; we can’t help but throw up some bling; we might even call in a line of Rockettes because Christ has got our feet tapping and our dance moving and we’re over the top excited about this story.
I guess what I’m saying today is that glitz for the sake of sparkle is no Christmas. But that razzmatazz, served up in response to the way the awesome gift of the Christ-child rocks our souls? Well, that’s a different – and more spiritually honest – story.
So in our house – over here at Maul-Hall – sometimes the light is so bright because Jesus blows the lid off. And sometimes the story is so low key and essential that we just want to set out the tiny olive wood Nativity and say “thank you” to God with our quiet voices.
It’s all good, if it’s all Jesus. To quote my (temporarily silenced) favorite and most eloquent preacher – “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”
Can I get an “Amen”? – DEREK
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there's always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor's degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men's Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.