God made the nations so they would seek him, perhaps even reach out to him and find him. In fact, God isn’t far away from any of us. In God we live, move, and exist. As some of your own poets said, ‘We are his offspring.’Acts 17:27-28
I have always been a big fan of talking with children. Their wide open hearts and straightforward, unvarnished perspective so often offers insight and wisdom lost on those who have let the world knock off the bright edges of wonder they had once known, and shared so willingly.
At the same time – especially when they are in the beginning stages of learning – kids say “the darndest things.” And this is the root of one of my favorite Christmas Tree stories, back circa 1987, just after we moved into the Piedmont Road house in Pensacola.
Andrew was five, and he loved to show our Christmas Tree to guests. He had been paying attention to the decorating. He knew why and where everything was placed, as well as learning some of the family stories that went along with the ornaments.
He was also learning – but not quite in command of – the difference between the sacred and the secular.
“This is our Christmas Tree,” I heard him telling one of our guests. Our five-year-old then pointed to the stars, nativities, and angels above his head.
“We have the sacred ornaments close to the top,” he said, proud of his growing vocabulary; “and – here – we have the sexual ornaments lower down.”
It’s a tradition we have continued – except we tend to limit participation to “secular” decorations instead.
But it is all holy:
But one thing I am noticing, and here the conversation turns more serious, is that the demarkation between the sacred and the secular is increasingly less distinct. And I believe that is because our understanding is still, day by day, being expanded by the mind, and by the love, of Christ.
It’s a lot like one of my favorite quotes from Mr. Rogers. Rogers had been a guest on the Arsenio Hall Show and – in response to the host saying he’d be more inclined to believe if The Creator spoke through a pillar of fire or by parting the Red Sea – pointed out the deep truth that, “God’s revealing evidence is everywhere; you just have to look for it.”
When our eyes are open and our hearts too, then seeing the sacred in the mundane is not so difficult. God intends to be a part of our entire human experience.
It is no accident that Jesus was born in a simple manger. It is no surprise that the first to hear the angels’ song were the very ordinary shepherds, out in the fields, watching sheep.
And there is no reason at all that we cannot, will not encounter the holy on the lower branches of our Christmas Tree, where a pink pig, a floppy-eared reindeer, a child’s toy and a couple of bunny rabbits hold court.
So take a moment, wherever you are, and look around. What do you see? What kind of music is playing? Who are you with? What are you doing with your day?
The answer to all these questions can be, “I see the face of Jesus.” The answer to all these locations can be, “I am in a holy place, the Spirit of God is with me.” The meaning in all the people you are with must be, “I can love with such selflessness and grace because Jesus has come.”
Merry Christmas. Sunday is the 4th Sunday in Advent. Maybe you are prepared for the coming of the King after all? – DEREK