I responded with my experience of decorating so far this Christmas. Katie and I have a tree that comes in two pieces that we keep in storage in the basement. The lights even stay on it. We have yet to haul out the boxes and boxes of stuff we have in the basement to decorate the tree. We have enough to choose from several “themes.”
I don’t know why we put off decorating for Christmas, but it seems since the kids moved out we’ve done less and less, later and later. I suppose I have good excuses; two pastors in the busy weeks before Christmas. But the truth is everyone’s busy. It’s been very cold all December and so it has been difficult to put lights outside, this excuse ignores that our heating bill is paid and the tree is inside. I’d like to say it’s not in my blood, but the pictures I saw on Facebook of my brother Mark’s home (in Staunton, IL) has more blow up Santa’s and Snowmen than one picture frame could hold (I can only imagine the “ theme” of his tree) deposes that notion.
The truth is, that I know that all the effort and energy into putting up a tree and decorations are only going to last only a short while. And yet, I long for the beauty and mystery and whatever it is that comes when we decorate for Christmas and spend more time in our living rooms, before we go to bed at night, with just the lights of the tree on.
Some people discount this and describe the tendency to put on Christmas music as we build a fire in the fireplace or turn on the TV station that has only a “Yule” log burning 24/7. We admire our Christmas decoration themes as sentimental or nostalgic or the magic of Christmas. I agree that at some level when we try too hard or force anything or any theme around Christmas it can become so sour that we avoid it or so sweet we ignore it. We can also miss the point when our theme does not include the story of Jesus’ birth. Most of us fall in-between being Scrooge and my brother at Christmas.
And so for me the issue is not how far along I am on my decorating for Christmas; but am I open to being moved, stirred, enlightened not only by the spirit of the season but by the spirit that I believe encompasses each and every season and theme or moment of my life. Christmas is an opportunity to recognize our capacity to go deeper to somehow see a different part of ourselves; the part of ourselves that longs for beauty, the part that desires to be connected to something greater than ourselves, a part of ourselves that needs to give more than we get.
Somehow, most of us are at some level stirred by the story we will tell again next Tuesday evening at Christmas Eve worship. Most of us are moved by the theme of a family in difficulty, a child born into a broken world, the recognition that as miraculous as every birth is; there is something extraordinary about the birth of this baby named Jesus that causes us all to pause and respond.
And so my prayer, is that you may be moved this Christmas: rather it’s the shudder you experience at a Christmas tree decorated and glowing like a star in the night sky in your living room or the tremor that resounds in many of us when we hear the opening words of the story of Jesus’ birth, “When Qurenius was Governor of Syria.” May we all be open to being moved, stirred, enlightened not only by the spirit of this season but by the spirit that I believe encompasses each and every season and theme or moment of our lives; the spirit that is the true light that enlightens everyone; Emmanuel, God with us.
Keep the Faith!