In fact, [confession time] I don’t usually bother to decorate the house for Christmas at all.
Oh, we have a wreath for the door and I hang the kids’ Christmas artwork on the fridge, and we do Advent devotions together with one of those chocolate-filled Advent calendars, but as for filling the house with Christmas trees and bows and ribbons and red-and-green candles and gift-wrapped doors, well, we usually skip that part.
We always spend the holidays with my parents or my husband’s parents and we just consider their tree our tree for the season. The Nativity scene I made in Sunday school when I was in eighth grade still resides with my parents, and we get to enjoy it while we’re there.
We talk about Jesus’ birthday and how we’re going to celebrate it, but we just don’t see a whole lot of evidence of that around the house.
I always thought of this lack of decorating as more of a bonus than a problem, at least until this year when my four-year-old son kept asking me when we were going to decorate for Christmas.
He’s the one who’s been wearing a Santa hat on his head and a jingle bell around his neck since Thanksgiving, who keeps a spare set of bells under his bed so he can accompany “Jingle Bells” when we sing it before bed.
Clearly, the symbols of the season matter to him.
So I rummaged through the garage for some Christmas stuff people have given us over the years, and we cleared my older son’s plane collection off the mantel and put the holly and snow globe and some pinecones on it.
And we bought a little tabletop Christmas tree from Trader Joe’s and decorated it with some of the photo ornaments the boys have made in preschool and school the last couple of years. All of this seemed to give my son great satisfaction.
But of course, none of these things are the real symbols of the season. And luckily, we did have one more thing in a box in the garage—a Nativity scene my aunt had given me several years ago.
So together my son and I placed Mary and Joseph and the wise men and the shepherds and the animals and the tiny baby in the center of our Christmas mantel.
“Whose birthday is it?” I asked.
He pointed to the baby. “Jesus’s birthday!”
“Right!” I said.
I can talk about Jesus’ birthday all I want, but sometimes it’s nice to have a visual. Not just for him, but for me, to remind me why I’m doing all this card sending and baking and gift buying.
To help us remember those holy words, in the phrasing from one of my favorite seasonal books, The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, “Hey! Unto you a child is born!!”
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.