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Christmas Decorations and What We Really Want

Mallory Smyth

The week before Thanksgiving, my husband and I were driving into our neighborhood after dark when we saw it. Right before our eyes was the first house on our street to be lit up with Christmas lights. In a normal year, I would have scoffed at such audacity. “It’s not even Thanksgiving yet,” I would think to myself. “How does commercial Christmas creep in on us more every year?” This year, I was thankful to see the lights. 

The next day, I was on a Zoom call with my co-worker who told me that many people on her street had been decorating for Christmas earlier than usual. She commented, “This year, I think everyone is desperate for some Christmas cheer.” She was right. After that conversation, I talked to five more people who said the exact same thing—they decorated for Christmas early because they had an extra need for joy this year. Even I, normally the picture of self-control when it comes to starting the Christmas season AFTER Thanksgiving, couldn’t keep myself from listening to some Advent and Christmas hymns earlier than normal. 

Why, you might ask, am I so focused on the broader decorating schedule of the American people in 2020? Because religious practice is still on the decline in 2020, and yet, I have seen more Christmas spirit this year than I have since I was a child. Why is that? I believe that the Lord has something to reveal to us about ourselves. 

What I have noticed, what God is revealing yet again, is another version of what the prayers of the saints have echoed throughout each generation. The Psalmist reminds us in Psalm 19:1-2, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.” Shadrach, Mishach, and Abedgno (you may remember their names from your childhood Bible stories) commanded every single thing in existence to “Bless the Lord; praise and exalt Him above all forever” in a thirty-six line litany of prayer as they walked around a fiery furnace unharmed.[1] William H. Draper repeated the same command in his song, based on a poem by St. Francis of Assisi, when he wrote, “Let all things their Creator bless, and worship him in humbleness, O praise him, Alleluia!”[2] Each one of these prayers reminds us that all creation naturally glorifies God. Simply by its existence, creation cries out to God’s glory because God has placed Himself in all of creation. Yes, this also means Christmas decorations and traditions. 

As I have witnessed the increasing number of houses displaying holiday cheer, I have seen lights of every color, plastic Santas, reindeer, snowmen, and the occasional nativity scene. All of these things beckon us to behold the glory of God. The entire reason they, or any other Christmas mythical magic, exist is due to the reality of that occasional nativity scene. In the fullness of time, in reality, in this world, an angel appeared to a virgin and asked her to be the mother of God. She said yes. A man named Joseph was faithful in some pretty unbelievable circumstances. Together, these two brought into the world Emmanuel, God with us. It was when He appeared that the human soul finally felt its worth. The plastic, the lights, the cheer, and the secular traditions can bring us back to Jesus and the worth that He bestows upon us if we choose to see them through the right lens. 

Most of us, however, don’t see them through the right lens because the human heart is the only thing in existence that can choose whether or not it will glorify God. While everything else does so simply by existing, we have a choice. We can choose the Lord or we can choose His stuff. Most of the time, we choose His stuff. We glorify the plastic while the plastic glorifies Him. Yet, the heart wants what it wants, and when all else is stripped away, we are left with a desire for the living God so unquenchable that we won’t be satisfied on this side of Heaven. This year, when all seems to have been stripped away, what are we left with? We are left with a desire for the joy of the incarnation of Jesus Christ that runs so deep we find ourselves unable to keep ourselves from singing the songs and decorating the Christmas tree weeks in advance. In the midst of a culture that seems to be slipping away from the living God more and more, the longing for Him has shown through.  

So this year, I present you with two challenges. The first, look inside yourself. What are your loves and habits that aren’t necessarily about God but reveal your desire for Him? Can you sanctify them? 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Have you ever tried this? Have you ever tried to do literally EVERYTHING for the glory of God? Try it now. From the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, let everything remind you of God’s goodness, His mercy, His creativity, His compassion, His knowledge, and His wisdom. Whether you are shopping for Christmas presents, making Christmas cookies, dealing with work, eating lunch, getting frustrated with your family, working through the painful consequences from something out of your control, or anything else, let all of it point you to God for which your heart longs. 

The second challenge, as you look around a broken world decked out with garland and holly, is to ask the Lord to give you His eyes to see those whom you love. Whether or not they know it, they have shown that they want God. Can you be the one to offer Him through the way you love? Can you share the true story of Christmas with others in such a way that it speaks to the longings of their heart? Can you love them more than you did last year with the prayer that this love would lead them to the ultimate lover of their souls? 

God has given us a choice: to glorify Him or not. Choose to join in with all creation and glorify Him by your very existence. Let your life point to Him so that others will find what they are longing for. 

P.S. If you want God to heal your heart so that you can live in freedom, be on the lookout for our Fearless and Free 6-Lesson Bible study coming out on January 1. Kristy Malik and I will be leading live discussions through each lesson during Lent on Facebook and Instagram. More information will be coming in 2021, but mark your calendars so you don’t miss it, and invite a friend.

[1] Daniel 3:51-90
[2] 
Draper, William H. “All Creatures of Our God and King.” The Hymnary. December 11, 2020. www.hymnary.org/text/all_creatures_of_our_god_and_king

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