As I haul out the trove of Christmas ornaments one more year, I’m aware again just how insanely this season is characterized by the need to adorn, bedazzle, embellish or glitz-it-up in any and every form. It’s a full-on blitzkrieg of light, color and vibrating sensation; an absolutely fantastical overkill of sight and sound. And don’t forget the music. We got entire volumes of songs that festoon the senses and capture the imagination.
Looking at it from a theological perspective, it’s puzzling to consider how we get this great correlation of Christmas and extravagant bling. Sure, there was a magnificent star, and angel choir and over-the-top announcements, but for the most part, the prevailing textures of the story are mighty humble. Backwoods Bethlehem is where it starts, amidst the homespun garments of nobodies, where it moves on to dusty, desert roads and culminates in the roughest of hewn stables. Why then doesn’t Easter, another celebration of equally powerful supernatural events, emblazon itself with blinking crosses, rock-breaking contests or dynamic explosions commemorating the earth-shattering events? All the Resurrection gets to mark it is little chicks and bunnies wrapped in pastel! Besides the feasting, the only miraculous thing is the chocolate. What’s with all the Christmas adornment?
But there is exaltation; rightly so. It’s in the paradox of contrasts. The thing that strikes one about the Nativity epic is the huge movement back and forth on both ends of the glory spectrum. A magnificent thread of 24 carat gold weaves through the coarse burlap strands of this ancient tale. The long-awaited incarnation comes among the lowliest of peasants, personally announced by Gabriel, God’s highest-ranking angel. The chosen groom’s practical and righteous objections to a pregnant fiancé were overcome by nothing less than a visitation of the Almighty in a dream. In the long, desperate road to Bethlehem, a singular star accompanied their course and marked it forever. As Mary’s waters broke, thrusting labor pains came upon her and a newborn’s cry split the air, a spectacular angel choir never before seen on the earth announced it to astonished shepherds. And the juxtapositions just keep coming. The story swings dizzyingly between the natural and supernatural, confounding logic and analysis; mysterious and profound.
The birth of Jesus signaled a shift in way glory interfaced with the earth. While it’s true, as Isaiah said “The whole earth is filled with the glory of the Lord” (Isaiah 6:3), it was concealed in the rhythms of nature, taken so long for granted. With Jesus, the glory of Heaven once more detonated forth on the earth, startlingly manifest at a new level. With Him, the glory that belongs to the human soul was restored. Consider the words of Mary, a mere teenager, as she grasps the enormity of what has been endowed upon her.
And Mary said, “My soul does magnify the Lord, And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”. Luke 1:46-47
Here’s a thought that ought to rock your world. The human soul was created to hold and showcase the majesty of God. We lost that capacity, but with Jesus’ birth, and finally, the Cross, it was permanently restored. Long and short? We crave bling because it is what we were created for. We were formed in it, splendiferously suffused in the fearsome and awesome presence of God.
It’s true that I love velvet, sequins and shiny, glittery trifles, but life has taught me that if you want the true adornments of honor, dignity, majesty and significance, you’ve got to look to the Lord. Since He created beauty in all forms, they belong to Him. These intangibles are elusive, and contrary to popular opinion, cannot be purchased in the marketplace. God adorns the most unlikely people at the most unusual times, who simply follow His words and way. When God adorns you, you are adorned forever. This is the profound subtext of the Nativity.
In fact, not just His birth but the entire ministry of Messiah was a task to restore beauty and authority. It’s right there in black and white in the words of Isaiah.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:1-4
There’s a day coming when every single thing life has robbed us of will be restored. We adorn; in promise, in hope, in expectation. In the meantime, we swathe ourselves with the attitude of a new creation, with hope for the future and gratitude in the present. As we do, we manifest the greatness of the Lord. We put on glory, as the Lord Himself told us to.
Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Isaiah 60:1-3 KJV
Nothing wrong with pulling out your pretty little party dress and high heels to get festive. Revel in the feasting and frivolity, but don’t forget to bathe your spirit in the sublime delight that you are deeply, irrevocably loved and have been visited, time and again by no one less than God Himself. You are so beautiful in His sight. Let that honor be your greatest adornment.
A very blessed and miraculous holiday to you all! Enjoy your Christmas season, and please note that I also will be taking a break and will resume blogging after the New Year. Shalom, Beloved.