Every year around the Thanksgiving holiday, families across the country begin decorating their homes (inside and out) with Christmas decorations. For some, it is a cherished family tradition. For others, it takes a more competitive tone.
Classic films like “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” have captured the competitive spirit that can settle in between neighbors about who has the “best” decorations or light display. The result often is a string of outrageously bright homes that seem to demonstrate the spirit of American capitalism more than the spirit of Christmas.
This year, however, one family decided to cut off the competition — before it even started.
Jami Kelly, of suburban Detroit, said her family began to put up outdoor decorations, but quickly became discouraged at the extravagance of her neighbor’s display.
“Nothing measures up,” she remembered thinking.
So, instead of trying to outdo her neighbor and adding more stress to the holiday season, Kelly grabbed a piece of plywood and a few sets of white lights. She weaved them together to form a bright arrow pointing to her neighbor’s home.
Then, above the arrow, she spelled out in charming white lights: “Ditto.”
Sometimes, I must admit, that is a tempting proposition for us here in Florida. When our neighbors, who are only here a few months of the year, put out elaborate light displays and then complain that “It would be nice if the ‘permanent’ people would put up more lights”, that puts the pressure on and increases the stress for the holidays for everyone here!
But then stress at this time of the year is not a proprietary quality of life, is it?
Everyone, it seems, has an increase in that “gift”. One study, conducted in Great Britain just a few years ago, points out that Christmas stress can have dangerous results. In that study, it was discovered that:
Almost 20 percent of people find the experience of hosting guests and preparing for Christmas meals and festivities “completely overwhelming.” A third of women feel more stressed throughout December than any other month across the year.
Three percent of people suffer an electric shock due to badly wired Christmas lighting and one in 50 falls out of the attic trying to get the tinsel and decorations down.
Some 2.6 million people have even fallen off a stool or ladder while hanging up the decorations.
A mammoth 700,000 people have been injured in the rush called ‘Black Friday’, while trying to snag a bargain.
As one observer put it, “Unfortunately the festive and winter season can bring with it hazards for your health, from the cold weather and long nights to unsafe electric decorations around the home. As such, we urge people to pause and take steps to keep themselves, their friends and family safe, to insure they have a relaxed and cheerful holiday season.”
You know, while this sounds like a problem for us this season, it is also a gentle reminder about the miracle that is Christmas. What Christ did in the Incarnation is amazing. He did not play it safe.
He entered into a world of accidents and hardships and injustice and profound unsafety and suffering — all for one purpose: to save us from the danger of living as sinners in a sinful world forever.
But you know, for many that seems incredible. To think that God Himself would become a human being, do the things Jesus did, die on the cross, then become alive again is just unbelievable! Many people are naturally skeptical about the supernatural.
When we stop to think about it, Christmas stretches our credulity. It comes complete with an angel appearing, a virgin conceiving, a star guiding, and heavenly hosts singing. How can rational, scientifically literate, 21st-century people like us believe such things, when even a child finds them hard to take?
However, to believe in the God of the Bible who created the universe and not to believe in miracles is rather obtuse. If you are a Christian you are already signed up to believe that the universe and everyone in it is God’s handiwork.
Physicist Jonathan Feng says, “What is truly amazing about the Christian faith is the idea that God made the universe — from quarks to galaxies but at the same time cared enough about us to be born as a human being. To come down, to die and be crucified in the person of Jesus, and to bring forgiveness and new life to broken people.”
Christians believe in Christmas in all its supernatural glory because miracles aren’t hard for God.
That is why my favorite verse at Christmastime is this: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.