It’s Thanksgiving evening. We have just finished our dinner and are taking a rest before the desserts are served. It sure is nice to have the family together. My inbox has been inundated with Black Friday discounts that have already gone into effect and in several hours, the season of Thanksgiving will give way to preparations for Christmas.
This used to be the weekend each year that we started to put up the Christmas decorations and it is already clear to me that the rampant materialism of the season is about to take over. So it is with profound sadness that I realize many people who put up decorations for Christmas celebrate the secular part of the season and will not celebrate the true reason for the season.
Many years ago, Janet and I started a tradition that we follow to this day. We put up several trees throughout the house – each with a different theme. We have a traditional tree with ornaments from our early childhoods and family heirlooms. We have another tree in the lower level that is more lodge themed – woodland animals, fishing, kind of a cabin vibe that honors the outdoors. Then, we have a small tree in our bedroom that is filled with ornaments from our vacations all over the world and we also have a more formal tree in the main family room that is filled with glass ornaments designed by Radko.
We have added a new tree this year that year we will put in the three season room. It will be too cold for us to enjoy but it will be visible from the backyard and the lake so we hope that our neighbors will help us ring in the season.
As different as our trees are, they all have one thing in common. Each of them has a nativity ornament front and center in the middle of the tree. We chose this tradition to highlight the fact that the real meaning of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ so long ago in a manger in Bethlehem.
In fact, we collect nativities. Each time we find one out of the ordinary, we try to add it to our collection. In several locations throughout our home, we have large nativity scenes in front of our trees as well. And last year, we added an outdoor nativity scene for the front of the house.
A friend of mine thought it would be a wonderful goal to work toward making Indianapolis the Outdoor Nativity Scene capital of the United States. Granted, he has a long way to go but he has contacted churches and private schools to use the initiative as a fundraising project for kid’s programming. He has become more successful each year and I am pleased that we were able to get in on the ground floor – adding an outdoor nativity to our collection in the inaugural year. In fact, I have tried to advance Jim’s dream as much as I can.
Our verse for tonight comes from the book of Matthew. We are told about the birth of Jesus in the first chapter of his Gospel. Matthew tells us, in 1:23, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” My encouragement this evening is that God wants us to remember and celebrate the earthly entrance and presence of His Son. My prayer is that we will take time to remember the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and how His time living among us, in human form, gave us a model of behavior for each of us to emulate. And if you are so inclined, perhaps you will also start a tradition of hanging a nativity ornament on your Christmas tree during the Advent season. It’s a wonderful reminder of what this season is all about! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…