Christmas Decorating

“If someone walked into your home this Christmas season, would they know by your decorations that you were celebrating the birth of your Savior, Jesus Christ?” Many years ago, this was a question asked of the congregation by our then pastor during his Sunday sermon. Upon hearing this statement, our whole perspective on Christmas decorating changed. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17).

Prior to this, our Christmas decorating reflected what we thought looked nice and Christmassy. No thought was given to the importance of visibly making Christ’s birth the central theme of our decorations. The nativity was a part of our Christmas decorating. However, it was also made up of a menagerie of items that had been given to us through the years. Santa Clauses, reindeer, and stockings were sometimes themes of these decorations. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). This verse was good encouragement for us in leaving behind the worldly trappings of Christmas decorating.

Decorations that Focus on Jesus

That question challenged my family to reevaluate the Christmas decorations we put up. Was the birth of Jesus evident, even at a casual glance? Would someone else, who didn’t know us, be able to see that we worship Jesus Christ? Would they know He was preeminent in our hearts and home? We realized a guest would observe some evidence of Christ since we had a very nice nativity set. However, the whole feeling of our Christmas decorating was closer to what the world thinks of when they think of Christmas than it was a celebration of the birth of Christ. We began a purging of our decorations to eliminate the ones we did not feel fit with the emphasis we wanted to have—celebrating the birth of Jesus.

The weeding-out part was easy except when there was sentimental attachment to an item. At that point, I would think about what I wanted my children’s hearts endeared to through the years of putting up the Christmas decorations. Did I want them excited about pulling out the reindeer from the Christmas box or delighted about opening the little glass nativity that sits on a mirror? Where would their joy be—in the cute little Santa or the wall plaque that says, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”? The items that had heart attachment but no longer fit with our new decorating scheme were easier to let go of as I focused my mind on those thoughts.

I have to admit that, even with thinking right thoughts about eliminating decorations we no longer wanted to use, there were a few things that stayed in the boxes rather than coming out for the first couple of years. I simply couldn’t get rid of them. Finally a year came when I was ready. The heart attachments were truly broken. They were pitched in the trash. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).

We also began to pray for the Lord to show us where to find decorations that would have Him be the focus. What exactly would those decorations look like? The acquiring of replacement decorations was hard since so many Christmas decorations have nothing to do with the story of the birth of Christ.

It was just a year or so later that I saw an ad in a Christian catalog for a fireplace mantle garland with a large ornament hanging from the middle of it that said, “Name Above All Names.” There were smaller, scroll-shaped ornaments hanging on the sides with words on them such as, “Truth,” “Bread of Life,” “Emmanuel.” It was perfect for our new Christmas decorating theme. This became the focal point of our Christmas decorating, with our nativity set sitting on the mantle right above the “Name Above All Names.” One “name” a year was added to the collection until the mantle displayed as many names as it could hold.

The girls and I try to go to a Christmas craft bazaar each November with Grandma. As that date approaches I begin asking the Lord to give me two or three new decorations to add to the collection. We visit booth after booth, searching for any decoration that refers to Christ or the Christmas story. Sometimes we find this very discouraging because so little of what we see glorifies Christ and much more of what is available is focused on the world’s idea of Christmas. However, every year the Lord has provided those two or three special decorations. I rejoice in God’s goodness to give us decorations that keep our mind on His birth during the Christmas season.

One year I found a large ceramic ornament with the nativity scene painted on it that can be hung on the wall. I also found a wooden plaque with an image of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus painted on it, and the words, “Remember the reason for the season.” The third item was another wooden plaque with an angel on one end and “Joy to the World” written on the other.

Each year I come home from the bazaar with our purchases, hang them in my bedroom until the time comes to decorate the house, and delight in looking at them. They truly put my focus on Jesus Christ during His special season.

Changed My Outlook on Decorating

This change in our Christmas decorating has filled my heart with joy. I love the excitement in our children’s eyes as they pull out their favorite decorations from the Christmas storage boxes. Each item puts our thoughts on Jesus Christ in some way. There are no more mixed messages being sent to our children. When a guest enters our home at Christmas, he will no longer wonder what Christmas means to the Maxwell family. He will see Jesus Christ everywhere he looks.

In the years since making our Christmas decorating change, we have been excited to see how God has answered the prayer of our hearts and provided decorations that glorify Christ. Because we have only added one to three new Christmas decorations per year, the expense has been minimal. If we hadn’t had the finances for this or simply wanted craft projects, we could have made our own decorations. With Christmas fast approaching, may Jesus be known to our children even by our decorations. May we use them to draw our children’s hearts into a deeper love for Jesus as they experience the excitement year after year of getting out those Christmas decorations that remind them of His birth. May our decorations also bring joy to our hearts because they encourage us and our families to reflect on the magnificent miracle of the birth of our Savior.

He Could Do No More: What About Us?

His son was his joy. He loved to hold him and take care of him. The weeks passed and so did the months, until his son finally began to walk. What a delight to have his little boy follow him around the house. Each day was better than the previous. Then one day he was told that he and his wife, with their son, must appear in court. They went as commanded. At the conclusion of the proceedings, someone picked up his son, walked across the courtroom and out a door. That was the last time he ever saw his son. A large portion of his heart was ripped out of his body at that moment. The anguish he has experienced not many have known.

It has probably been six months that he has been attending our church at the nursing home. He has amazed us with his love for the Lord Jesus and knowing so many of the old hymns. I’m guessing he is in his seventies. Tall and thin, he still gets around quite well with a walker or cane. It might be that those size-twelve boots add to his stability, but if not, he keeps himself upright through sheer determination.

He has trouble speaking, and you have to listen carefully to understand him. That doesn’t seem to bother him, though, even if I ask him to repeat something. He has a room to himself, and it is quite full with furniture that the county brought over from his house.

Several weeks ago he was telling me about how he had set his room up, so I walked down the hall with him to look at it. The couch was strategically placed at one end of the room. He went on to tell me about how he moved his two dressers and his reasons for placing them just so. I cautioned him about moving such heavy things alone. With a twinkle in his eye, he said how the staff didn’t want him to, but he could do it just fine by himself.

He has a picture of his wife and him on the opposite wall from his bed. He will tear-up just about every time he speaks of her passing away. They didn’t have much, but they had each other and the Lord Jesus.

One Sunday coming home from church, I was telling the family about my conversation with him, just minutes earlier. I shared about our discussion and that at the end, he said how he prays every day for his son’s walk with the Lord. He has no idea where his son is, but he also prays that someday he will be able to see him again. As I tried to finish telling the family what he had told me, that he has trusted God . . . I just couldn’t get all the words out without breaking down. I finally sort of squeaked out that he was trusting God with his son.

I almost can’t even write this because my heart feels like it is in a vise. This man of God has suffered so deeply for all these years. He has been able to deal with his grief through his faith in God. I detect no bitterness. I think if there were any, it would have killed him by now.

I share this story because I felt there was a powerful lesson for each of us. He had his son taken from him many, many years ago. He has not been able to do anything for his son except pray—and pray he has. He would have given everything he has to exchange places with any of us dads. He wanted to have children around him—to love them, hold them, and teach them. I’m convinced that no matter what your circumstances, he would gladly change places with you in a heartbeat.

Dad, how do you look at your wife and children? Are they your delight or a burden? Are you excited to be able to spend time with them? Do you spend time with them, and what do you do with them?

My friend could do nothing to disciple and shape his son. What are we doing to disciple our children? Are we leading our family in a daily Bible time? Are we spending meaningful one-on-one time with them? Have you gladly forsaken “your” time for time with your family?

When my friend stands before the Lord Jesus someday to give account for his life, with a clear conscience he will be able to say he did everything he could to raise his son in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Will we be able to say that? While there is still time, may we turn our hearts to our children and have an active daily role in shaping their lives. “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:6).

Posted in: Dad's Corner