NASHVILLE –Last night, I begrudgingly embarked on the annual tradition of setting up our family Christmas tree.
I say begrudgingly because our massive pre-lit tree never seems to work how it’s supposed to. After wrestling the branches into place and hooking up all of the pre-wired strings of lights, it always seems like at least one section of lights doesn’t work. Over the years, instead of figuring out why certain sections don’t light up, I have resorted to buying additional strands of lights and stringing them on top of the dead sections.
Once the tree is decorated, no one can tell the difference. But my quick-fixes sure make set-up and tear-down a nightmare, as I attempt to untangle the added light strands from the original ones.
Last night, my irritation was contrasted with the overwhelming excitement of my three-year-old granddaughter, Josephine. Though this was her third Christmas, it was her first time to help us decorate the tree. The same plastic tree—that for me was an object of frustration and futility—was for Josephine an object of joy and wonder.
Whether she was carefully hanging a shiny glass ball, or telling her uncle where exactly to lay a strand of silver beads, Josephine acted as though this Christmas tree was her masterpiece. Our annual decorating time was punctuated by the soundtrack of Josephine’s gasps and outbursts of “Beautiful!” and “This is so amazing!”
What best characterizes your approach to the Christmas season?
Are you filled with joy and excitement, like Josephine—or are you (like me) filled with irritation and dread at the increased traffic, the proliferation of parties and events, and the tangle of Christmas lights?
While you might say that our different perspectives merely reflect a difference in age (3 vs 57) or maturity, I would argue that Josephine’s approach to the Christmas season is closer to the Kingdom than you might realize.
When the angels appeared to the shepherds near Bethlehem they said, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” What was the “good news of great joy”? “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10–11).
How did the shepherds respond to this news?
Kind of like Josephine.
It was right for them to be filled with joy and excitement. Not only were they told that the Messiah had come, but they were told where they could find Him. And when they found the baby and His parents, they were filled with a joy and wonder that they could not keep to themselves.
So as we enter another Christmas season, whether it’s your 3rd or your 30th or your 93rd, remember that this is a time check our hearts to see if we are responding rightly to the “good news of great joy.” If you are anything other than overjoyed at the thought of God’s salvation in Christ, then maybe you are focusing too much on the traffic and the tangled lights and not enough on the baby in the manger.
If you have young children (or grandchildren), allow their joy and excitement this season to convict you and hopefully, to rub off on you. Remember it was Jesus who said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)