What came into being
through the Word was life,
and the life was the light for all people.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light…
The true light that shines on all people
was coming into the world.
The light was in the world,
and the world came into being through the light,
but the world didn’t recognize the light. – John 1
One of my preacher friends told me he got in trouble for telling people the Christmas Tree is really a borrowed symbol from the pagan world (the evergreen was thought to own some kind of “magic” that kept it alive through the winter – ergo bringing one indoors would bring the winter-life spirit into the house).
If it’s true, then why should we pretend otherwise? Christianity spread so effectively exactly because of this kind of adaptability. The only point that matters is that we now know the light that came into the world, and we know who it is that is the source of all energy, life, light, growth, creativity, rebirth, resurrection, and springtime.
Jesus redeems everything!
One of the things Christianity does so well is to invite Jesus in to redeem just about anything and everything! The point of Christmas is exactly what John said, that now the true light has come into the world. We hang stars on our tree, we place an angel on the top, we set shepherds and wise-guys in groupings underneath; there are nativities, and Santa shows up; we hang crystals, and birds, and strings of popcorn, and a million different ornaments representing a million different things.
And it’s all fine. It’s a Jesus tree regardless!
Even Santa has a boatload of different traditions behind him. The original “Saint Nick” was a delegate to the council at Nicene in the 4th Century – he was outspoken and rough around the edges and he punched another delegate in the face. “Good King Wenceslas” was a 10th Century Bohemian duke who in reality was not so kind and generous as the famous carol suggests. Cultures all through Europe have similar characters in folklore, all of whom contribute to the popular mythology that was eventually codified in “modern” times via Clement Moore’s ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas poem.
It only works if you believe!
One seasonal image that has always touched both me and Rebekah came from a CNN news report during the Iraq War. It was of Christians celebrating Christmas Eve in Baghdad, gathered with candles in the bombed-out shell of a church. The report was brief but poignant and resonant, brilliant with the light of the Good News.
Another I often think of is from Japan, in a culture where very few follow Christ. The report showed malls crowded with consumers buying their hearts out, celebrating “Christmas shopping”!!! The symbols themselves – manger scenes, Jesus, shepherds, Bethlehem, Magi following a star – are absolutely meaningless.
- What makes the difference – what adds the holy – is only what happens when Jesus is invited in…
My home, a redeemed evergreen. Your home, a jolly old elf representing how Jesus invites generosity. Gift giving can either lead us to the newborn king or focus on consumerism and greed… it is always our call.
Here are some images of the evolving holiday décor around our house. You may not see him in most of the photos but it is all Jesus. No doubt. The light has overcome the darkness, and it always will.
Keep decorating; keep following Jesus – DEREK