Monday, December 29, 2014

The Forgotten Christmas Decoration

As I explained in this December 2013 post, our family usually decorates for Christmas on the first full weekend in December. We then put our decorations away sometime between Christmas and New Year Day.

My reasoning behind this is simple. Part of the reason Christmas is special to us is the rarity of the festivities. The longer the celebration stretches out, the more common and less special the season becomes. It can be like having too much of a good thing.

Thus, this year we decorated on December 6 (a traditional Christian feast day) and put our decorations away on December 27, exactly three weeks later. This may mark the shortest span our family has maintained its seasonal Christmas decorations. But it was fine for us.

As a side note, I don't particularly begrudge others keeping their decorations up longer. They will do what suits them. I'm just glad I'm not them.

On Saturday I was happy when the un-decorating chore was done. The task usually takes about three hours and it's more work than one might think. Before stowing the final box in the storage room, I checked to see if we had left any stray decorations up. I didn't find anything, but that doesn't mean there isn't a Christmas decoration lurking somewhere in plain sight.

It seems that no matter how thorough we think we've been at putting our decorations away, we almost always later find at least one Christmas decoration that has escaped our attention. Several times it has been the whole nativity set, occupying an honored place behind the glass doors of the family room cabinet. Last year it was a rather large plaque reminding that the wise still seek Christ.

I have noticed that when we eventually notice the Christmas item we have somehow failed to put away, we are often in no hurry to properly store it. Last year the plaque remained in a prominent place on the wall of a high use area well into the summer months.

One year we failed to put the nativity set away until after the following Christmas. A snowman mug that was set on top of the piano one Christmas somehow ended up being used as a pencil holder. It has remained in it's spot on the piano for years.

Why do we leave these decorations up so long after realizing that they weren't put away along with the other Christmas decor? It just might be that, although we are not fond of leaving our Christmas decorations up for long periods, we actually do subconsciously enjoy being reminded of the Christmas season throughout the year. Is that such a bad thing?

Though Christmas is past for this season, may a spark of the season's joy remain in your heart throughout the year.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Turkish Delight and the Great Gift of Christmas

I have long been a C.S. Lewis fan. I read the seven books in the Chronicles of Narnia to my kids when they were younger. Those that are familiar with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the foundational book in the series, will recognize the character Edmund, who turns traitor against good causes. Of course, one of the book's main themes is Edmund's return to grace, which comes at a terrible cost.

It seems that the book and the movie had left some of my children with a romantic fancy for Turkish delight, a confection that the devilish White Witch uses to beguile Edmund. By some twist of fate we recently came into possession of a couple of boxes of Turkish delight.

Despite my familiarity with the Narnia books, I had never previously known exactly what Turkish delight was. Frankly, the gel based sugary candy didn't look all that appetizing to me. My suspicions were confirmed after several of my children tried out the supposedly tasty treat. One of my sons remarked, "I can't believe that Edmund sold out his brother and sisters for this stuff."

It's possible that our children were exposed to less than premium samples of the candy. Or perhaps Turkish delight was among the best confections available in the austere times of post-WWII England. But the boxes have remained untouched on the pantry shelf for the past couple of weeks. I could certainly see myself happily passing through the remainder of my days without sampling any more Turkish delight.

In the book Edmund is deceived by the White Witch after she shares an abundant amount of Turkish delight with him. Although his indulgence soon brings intestinal discomfort, he longs so much for more of the sweet treat that he schemes and even endures hardship to betray his siblings to the White Witch. He soon learns, however, that her demeanor changes dramatically once she has him firmly in her clutches.

As I have pondered my son's dismissive remark about Turkish delight, I have wondered what 'Turkish delights' I am fancying in my life. Which promises of worldly treats am I trading for matters of greater value? Edmund traded away integrity and dignity for a trifle that seemed so important to him at the moment. Do we not all occasionally engage in similar behavior to one extent or another?

The analogy is apt, given that the carnal treats we desire often turn out to be far less satisfying than imagined. Or, like Edmund, we may find that we never even get the treat once we have sold ourselves to get it.

But, as it was with Edmund, there is a way back from such mistakes, even if the cost exacts a terrible price. Through proper repentance we can be assured that the awful price for our misdeeds has already been paid by one that loves us more than we can imagine.

It is for this reason that we celebrate Christmas — to commemorate the birth of the One that came to take away our sins. Indeed, of all the gifts of Christmas, He Is The Gift.