I am currently looking at one of my new favorite Christmas decorations, sitting prominently in the center of my mantle. It’s a hand carved nativity scene made out of olive tree wood. It’s extra special because it was carved in Israel, and given to me as a birthday gift when I was traveling in Israel this past spring.
It seems so appropriate to have this nativity scene bought from Bethlehem as the centerpiece of Christmas.
But let’s be honest, it can be so easy for me to lose the “centerpiece “ of Christmas amidst the chaos of Christmas. I wonder if you find yourself with this same struggle?
I mean, I love all the cheesy Christmas things. Christmas traditions are big in my family—everything from the handmade decorations on the tree (my personal favorite is the wreath that has a picture of me from 1st grade with a scowl and a very snotty nose) to our Christmas Eve gingerbread decorating contest.
I love Christmas caroling and Christmas parties. My favorite food group in the world is Christmas party food.
Pass the sausage balls anyone?
I looked at my Christmas calendar today. Almost every day highlighted with some sort of Christmas event, Christmas things I love. But—it can be easy in the chaos of Christmas to miss the Christ of Christmas.
I will never forget my first Christmas overseas living as a missionary.
I was living in South Asia and was trying to figure out how you make it feel like Christmas when you are literally on the other side of the world from where you usually celebrate Christmas. I didn’t have any of my normal Christmas traditions available to make Christmas seem- like Christmas.
I was asked to write and direct a Christmas play for our church to invite their neighbors to attend. This was hilarious because I had only been in the country since August and was still desperately trying to learn the language.
Play practices were quite an event. So was baking the 600 sugar cookies we packaged to give away at the play. Everything had to be made from scratch.Did I mention we made all of those cookies in a toaster oven that was only slightly bigger than an easy bake oven? I think I ate about 50 cookies that day because, after all, you cannot give away an angel with a broken wing.
We had to start the play in the Garden of Eden because our Hindu neighbors had no context for the Christmas story.
So the Garden of Eden had a chili pepper plant for the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I will never forget the laughter as Eve got stuck in the thorns of the plant and had to drag the “tree” off stage with her.
We could not find a baby, so Jesus was a two-year-old who kept getting up from the manger. Instead of sheep we had a goat, which ran away and ate the angel.
That Christmas play changed my view of Christmas forever.
The Church was full of people that day who had woken up that morning and placed flowers or offerings of food around their idols, hoping they would earn the favor of their gods.
For them, the idea of the creator God sending His son down to creation—to live a life with His death on a cross in mind, this was revolutionary.
It can become normal to us sometimes, this Christmas story. But it is miraculous.
It is the miracle of the God who created the heavens and the earth reaching out to you and me. To offer us the greatest gift we will ever unwrap.
Salvation. Redemption. Forgiveness, and relationship. Let’s come alive at Christmas celebrating this today.