In many households, as well as in mine, somewhere near the first of the year the inevitable putting away of Christmas occurs. The holidays are over, and all the decorations must go back into their boxes.
I carefully pack the heirloom glass balls, little winter scenes, stockings, garlands, plastic icicles, and wreaths. Then I face off with the lights. They either enter the bin of tangle-by-yourself or get meticulously wrapped around cardboard tubes so as not to form spider webs of connection during the long, hot summer in the garage. I turn off the CD player and reluctantly put all the Christmas music into its box. By now, the missing charm and glow of lights, decorations, and holiday tunes leaves me feeling melancholy. The house seems lonely, empty, and quiet. My soul feels the loss.
Yet there remains the last corner connecting me to Christ’s birth—the Nativity scene. It’s usually the first to be set up for the holidays and the last to be boxed up for storage.
During the past several years, Christmas has wrestled with my heart. Images of opulent department stores or overstocked, inexpensive retail warehouses contrast vividly with scenes of fleeing refugees and suffering humanity around the globe.
This globe is my address. As a citizen of Planet Earth, these desperate men, women, and children are my neighbors. How can I carry on the senseless tradition of buying into the fallacy that more stuff brings more happiness? How can I support marketplaces whose shelves are stuffed with goods produced by the slave labor of men, women, and children? I simply cannot!
In its place, I have chosen to get closer to the original Christmas story. The story that reveals the unthinkable; that invites us all, for a few moments each year, to be a bit more generous; to contemplate what peace on earth might really look like; and express our love for one another. The Jesus story has become my delight as I look deeply into the hearts of those who play supporting roles. I find myself falling in love with God all over again as Christ’s Nativity reveals His heart of compassion for me, for you, for the world.
Imagine how an inconceivable gift from heaven conceived Himself. Then watch as He sucks in His first infant breath, filling His lungs with the very atmosphere He once spoke into existence.
I am in awe of men of lowest Jewish rank witnessing a concert from celestial beings of heavenly rank. Those shepherds may have been the only ones who could not be offended that the Creator and King of the universe was a new baby sleeping in an animal feed trough.
So as I put away the Nativity scene, I pause in sacred reverence for this focal point of Christmas. I don’t want to put away Christmas. I don’t want it to sit in bins in the garage for the next 11 months. I’m talking no longer about decorations. I’m talking about my heart’s sensitivity to being touched by the magnificence of the mystery of the Incarnation, and how that will transform my life, my actions, and my thoughts.
I want to keep Christmas here, in the present, with me, all the days of the new year to come. Even while the little wooden and ceramic Nativity set is packed away, this year I long to keep the reality of heaven’s love set up in the stable of my mind so that every day can be Christmas. The angels’ song is becoming mine to sing of peace and goodwill for all people every day.