Rite of Passage: Christmas wisdom
Christmas is an ever-changing holiday. In my early years, we always went to my grandparents’ farm, where we opened presents, enjoyed family and ate some incredible food.
After I got married, Christmas took a different twist as we learned to juggle Christmas between my wife’s family and mine. Once we had children, Christmas went down one more bend in the road. We worked hard to keep the holiday balanced between our own family and our parents. Our children got married next. Today, my wife and I are the parents the children are trying to work around.
Even our Christmas tree has changed. In the beginning, we couldn’t afford much. Our tree was a little anemic-looking thing that could scarcely hold up its own scraggly branches, let alone any kind of decoration. One strand of lights, a couple of ornaments, a white sheet around the bottom and there you have it: our Christmas tree. When you’re young and in love, even the lowliest of Christmas trees has romantic value.
Before long, the kids came along. The tree got bigger and the boys made ornaments in Sunday School and at home. We added more lights and hung stockings. In those days we couldn’t put the children’s presents under the tree. If you think curiosity killed the cat, you’ve never seen a 5-year-old boy trying to figure out what he got for Christmas.
Today, our Christmas tree stands as a monument to more than 35 years of marriage, two boys and hopes for grandchildren to come our way. What used to be a family task has now become my duty. Each year, it is my job to put up the tree. I used to see how fast I could do it, but now I am in no hurry. I look at each ornament made by our boys. Some of them are uglier than homemade sin. (I don’t know where that expression came from, but I grew up hearing it.) One prized possession consists of a clothespin with a single strand of yarn glued to one end. It doesn’t have anything else drawn on or stuck to it. It’s just a clothespin. But one of our sons made it and, every year since its creation, it hangs proudly on our tree.
Then there’s the picture of Santa Claus colored on paper and cut out. The artist didn’t have the skill to stay within the lines. This one is a simple Santa Claus face with the back-and-forth scribbling of a little child. But whoever brought it home was proud of it, and we display it prominently every year. Each ornament brings some kind of emotional response as I place it on the tree.
In my journey to discover what gives something or someone value, I realized part of this question must be answered by the one who owns it. An outsider who examined our homemade ornaments might consider them junk. But I value them . . . because I value the ones who made them.
When a house catches on fire, we soon learn what has true value. I can replace a television set or a couch, but those things made by our young sons can never be replaced.
I heard a sermon one day in which the pastor referenced an old story. A famous painter had died, so all of his masterpieces were going up for auction. The crowd came from around the world to bid on these wonderful paintings. The auctioneer approached the podium and a hush fell over the crowd. He announced the painting that would go on the auction block first. I was not the work of the famous painter but of his small son instead.
The auctioneer held up the childlike picture and asked what someone would give for it. The crowd was silent. Finally one man bid $100 and the auctioneer asked why he wanted the painting. The buyer said, “I knew his son. We were friends.”
The auctioneer turned to the crowd and announced that the auction was over. Shocked, the crowd asked about the reason for the change. The auctioneer explained that the master painter had given instructions before he died: Whoever received the son’s paintings would also receive the father’s.
“No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23).
At this time of year, we remember the wise men who came to see the Son of God wrapped in swaddling clothes. Wise men still seek the Son. They understand: the one who has the Son also has . . . the Father.
Walker Moore is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P.O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 800/AWESTAR (293-7827)