By Katherine Britton
My felt Advent tree gains one velcro ornament each day until Christmas. I love this calendar, because each unique ornament tells a little bit more about the story of redemption from Genesis onward.
A grey felt heart stands for the Fall into sin. A beaded crown reminds of the Prince of Peace and Wonderful Counselor foretold in Isaiah. A fuzzy lamb represents John the Baptist’s announcement of Christ’s purpose.
The calendar is paired with devotional readings for children, which have surprised me in their simplicity and breadth. Like the ornaments, these readings tell a continuing story, in which Christ’s life is not the beginning or the end, but the event that makes sense out of both. With this bigger context, an otherwise chaotic history becomes simple enough that a child can understand.
How often do we take time to contemplate the magnitude of this story, which began in the Garden of Eden and won’t finish until Christ’s second coming?
I think my Christmas cheer is too often confined to the stable. To use a loose analogy, I’m a bit like the dwarves in C. S. Lewis’s The Last Battle, who convince themselves that their dingy stable-prison could not possibly hold the miracle of a whole new Narnia. And so, the dwarves get left behind in their imaginary confinement with nothing to celebrate when everyone else begins to explore the beautiful new world. Like the dwarves,
I can put my little Christmas story in a little room, and forget to see the whole miracle of redemption.
Sunday’s sermon about Herod’s massacre in Bethlehem reminded me why the grander picture is so vital. You’ll remember the story
- only a short while after the angels announced “peace on earth,” Herod’s blazing temper led to the mass murder of baby boys in Bethlehem. The arbitrary deaths of these little ones seems so disconnected from what we celebrate, so outside the realm of God’s grace. That event—like so many other injustices—seems to overwhelm the baby sleeping peacefully.
We can compartmentalize Christmas so it remains untainted by such events, can’t we? But that’s just it - as the grey heart on my felt Advent tree me, Christmas has to begin with an understanding of sin. We have to see the world’s desperate need for grace before we understand why a baby requires such a hullaballoo, and we have to look back at God’s plan to see how a baby can redeem even those situations.
Therein lies the astonishing glory of what happened at Christmas, and the beauty of what we proclaim to the world.
As the days go by and my calendar grows fuller with symbolic ornaments, I get more and more excited about Christmas Day. Into this world with so much baggage came a child who remained in it and not of it, who knew what we are and loved us anyway. By God’s grace, my understanding of Christmas keeps getting bigger—and with it, my reasons to “let [it] be known to the all the world” what he has done, is doing, and will continue to do!